‘Tired of being pushed around,’ Millinocket sets property-tax deadline for Great Northern Paper

Age and the work done by excavators is apparent at the Great Northern Paper Co. LLC site in Millinocket as seen on June 16.
Age and the work done by excavators is apparent at the Great Northern Paper Co. LLC site in Millinocket as seen on June 16. Buy Photo
Posted June 30, 2014, at 6:13 p.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town leaders said Monday that Great Northern Paper Co. has until 2 p.m. Thursday to pay its $1.18 million net personal property tax bill or they will re-apply a lien to the company’s papermaking equipment.

Saying they were tired of waiting for the check, Town Council members voted 7-0 in a 15-minute special meeting on Monday to reapply by that deadline the personal property tax lien on Great Northern Paper’s Katahdin Avenue equipment, including its No. 11 paper machine.

The lien would keep Great Northern Paper equipment on the property until the tax debt is paid. That would freeze auctioneer Koster Industries’ ability to complete sales from the auction it held for Great Northern Paper on June 19. Proceeds from the sales were to pay Great Northern Paper’s Internal Revenue Service and town tax bills in addition to the auction company’s fee. Koster is responsible for sending auction proceeds to the IRS and the town, officials have said.

“We are tired of being pushed around,” Town Council Chairman Richard Angotti Jr. said after the Monday meeting. “The council has spoken. If they don’t pay up, the lien goes back on.”

“We’ve been too patient,” Councilor Gilda Stratton said. “I’m sick of idle promises. Sick of it.”

Alexandra Ritchie, spokeswoman for Great Northern Paper management company Cate Street Capital of New Hampshire, did not immediately return telephone and email messages sent after the meeting. Koster Industries’ Matthew Koster referred comment on Monday to Great Northern Paper officials.

Great Northern Paper has owed Millinocket a total of $2.26 million in gross taxes since April. That figure includes $2.17 million in personal property taxes for the equipment it has at its Katahdin Avenue industrial park, $93,863 in accumulated interest as of Monday, plus a $10 fee paid to the Maine secretary of state’s office, Town Manager Peggy Daigle said.

Besides setting the deadline, the 7-0 vote alters the agreement among Koster, Great Northern Paper and the town to reflect the tax-increment finance agreement the industrial park operates under. The TIF requires Millinocket to return half of the $2.17 million property tax, or $1.08 million, to Great Northern Paper annually, Daigle said.

The amended agreement allows Millinocket officials to accept their net amount of taxes, $1.18 million, plus the interest and $10 fee, Angotti said. Daigle offered the amendment to speed the payment process by reducing the cash Koster would have to collect from auction buyers. The town charges $467 per day in interest on the debt.

The town also will apply a lien to Great Northern Paper real estate and buildings this week. The exact amount wasn’t available Monday, but Daigle estimated it was in the “low six-figure” range. The lien is among 305 real estate liens due to be generated automatically on properties owned by delinquent taxpayers, she said.

Great Northern Paper is the single largest taxpayer in the Katahdin region. The company is behind on about $3 million in tax payments to Millinocket and East Millinocket, which it owes $657,900, plus interest.

Resident John Dicentes pressed councilors for an immediate lien given “all the breaks you guys have given that company.”

“They are a billion-dollar company. They have had plenty of time to pay,” Dicentes said. “I don’t think you are doing the town any justice. We have had good faith with these people all along.”

Councilor Michael Madore said the Thursday deadline allows the town’s attorney time to handle the amended agreement. He noted that wire transfer traffic, by which entities often exchange large amounts of money, usually ends daily at 2 p.m.

 

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