MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town Council members warned residents against verbally abusing Great Northern Paper Co. auctioneer Koster Industries on Thursday after Koster failed to pay a $340,000 tax payment that Great Northern Paper has owed since Tuesday.
Town Manager Peggy Daigle told the council during its meeting on Thursday that in conversations with Koster officials, she learned that “an individual” had contacted Koster recently and “was rude and abusive to the folks.”
Great Northern Paper “is the company that owes us money, not Koster,” Daigle said Thursday. “[Koster] don’t owe us taxes or anything. They will transfer money from the sale of equipment. I know that [residents] are frustrated, angry and concerned, and it is showing up in all kinds of communications, but I would hope the efforts on the part of the town are very sensitive.”
Councilor Michael Madore said that from what he had heard of the incident, “the language used, and the threatening manner in which it was used, could qualify to be almost criminal, as harassment.”
Great Northern Paper has owed the town a net payment of $1.08 million in property taxes, plus interest and expenses, since April. The company hired Koster to auction papermaking equipment at the Millinocket mill on June 17. It later agreed to a four-step payment plan that would ease the payment process for Koster and speed it up for the town. But Koster hasn’t made the $340,000 payment owed since Tuesday after making a $225,000 payment on July 3, town officials have said.
Councilors have expressed great frustration with Great Northern Paper and Koster over the nonpayments, saying that they threaten the town’s already tenuous financial stability. But residents calling Koster directly on the town’s behalf and complaining are going too far, they said.
“We, as a town, don’t need that,” Madore said.
“We don’t want to do anything to derail the process. These people are merely doing a job,” Daigle said. She asked residents to “employ the golden rule.”
Another $360,000 payment is scheduled for July 14. The remainder of the $1.08 million in net property taxes, plus interest, is due July 21, according to a plan the council voted 5-2 to accept on July 3.
Great Northern Paper made the agreement in response to personal-property liens placed by the Internal Revenue Service and Millinocket on property at the company’s Katahdin Avenue industrial park.
Council Chairman Richard Angotti Jr. said that the auctioned property hasn’t moved from Katahdin Avenue since the auction, and it won’t until the town receives all its auction proceeds. Equipment from the paper mill’s steam plant is being taken apart. That work precedes the town’s lien and the equipment being removed was not auctioned, Angotti said.
“I watch this every day. From my backyard I can see exactly what is going on,” Madore said. “The majority of the stuff being taken out of there now is salvage coming off the ground. They are digging through everything. They are knocking down retaining walls to remove the rebar from them. They are sorting metals and things already on the ground.”
“We just have to have the patience to allow this to go through the process,” Angotti said.