EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town leaders voted unanimously to issue a statement of support for the local paper mill’s owner in a move that some said Monday signaled they would not support filing a lien anytime soon seeking more than $650,000 in delinquent property taxes.
The Board of Selectmen voted 5-0 after an executive session during a special meeting on Thursday to say that it “fully supports Cate Street Capital and Great Northern Paper Co. LLC at this time,” according to Selectman Clint Linscott, who made the motion.
“I think it says that we are not ready to put a lien on them at the moment. They still have a functional mill. My goal is to get the jobs back and to get vendors paid,” Linscott said Monday.
Board Chairman Gary MacLeod said that the statement stood on its own but added he didn’t want to take the possibility of the town filing a lien off the table entirely.
Great Northern Paper owes East Millinocket $657,900 in property taxes for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The mill in East Millinocket shut down in January, and 212 of 256 workers were laid off in February. The company’s managers have said they hope to restart the mill later this year.
“We continue to monitor the situation very closely,” MacLeod said Monday.
News of East Millinocket’s vote comes as Millinocket leaders were due to meet 4:30 p.m. Monday to discuss a possible settlement with Great Northern Paper over the $2.24 million lien Millinocket filed against the company in May.
The largest taxpayer in both towns, Great Northern Paper owes East Millinocket and Millinocket about $3 million in taxes for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which ends June 30. With the towns, the Internal Revenue Service and its creditors, the company has at least $6.8 million in liens filed against it at the Penobscot County Registry of Deeds.
East Millinocket Selectman Mark Marston said he still had hope that the mill would restart. He also expressed doubt that a lien would, by itself, guarantee the town would get the taxes it is owed.
“This is a company that is trying to get investors and get on their feet financially,” Marston said Monday. “They took quite a while to find a buyer for this, and I want to support them to the last gun.”
“If these guys are close to starting up [the mill], I can’t see that it would help anything,” Marston added, referring to a lien.