EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — A Florida-based demolition company continued to raze four buildings at the former Great Northern Paper Co. mill site Tuesday despite town officials’ concerns that it could spoil a developer’s interest in the remaining facility.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued a 15-page permit to North American Recovery Management on Feb. 1 allowing the $1.31 million demolition project to proceed. The Boca Raton-based firm, which began work Monday, apparently plans to demolish two two-story paper machine buildings totaling 230,462 square feet plus two other buildings identified in the permit as the screening room and disk filter buildings.
Mark Scally, chairman of the East Millinocket Board of Selectmen, said town officials were working with the town’s attorney, Dean Beaupain, to see whether the town’s liens on the property could be the basis for legal action to halt the razing of the buildings. Scally said the four targeted buildings are crucial to the interests of a potential developer who has been reviewing the site. Scally declined to identify the developer, citing confidentiality concerns.
“At this point, I don’t know what else we can do. We have pretty much done what we can do,” Scally said Tuesday. “I would like [North American] to come to the table to reach an agreement to sell [the site]. They are a wrecking ball company, and I don’t want that place wrecked.”
Beaupain said later Tuesday that the town had no legal way that he was aware of to prevent the razing of the buildings.
“They are not our buildings, and there’s a process that [North American] went through when the equipment first showed up. We were very concerned they were not going through the process, but they did,” Beaupain said.
North American Chief Financial Officer Jason Inoff issued a brief statement Monday evening saying that town officials were wrong to fear that the demolition work would make the site less marketable.
The demolition “will not affect any future development of the site,” Inoff said.
Several structures would remain on the property, including the site’s biomass boiler, after the four buildings are demolished.
“If we wanted to take down the entire site we could have started that last April. We are trying our best to do several things,” Inoff said. “We’re trying to do our best to bring back the most commerce to this site.”
Inoff declined to comment further.
Scally said he was unaware of Inoff’s efforts to secure site developers. North American has not communicated with town officials about any developers of the site. At this rate, a potential deal with the developer Scally declined to name “may not come to be.”
“That’s how delicate this thing is,” the Select Board chairman said.
Town officials have contacted members of the state’s federal delegation and Gov. Paul LePage’s administration on behalf of the developer to press North American to make a deal with that developer, Scally said.
The town has a lien against the mill site land and all site buildings for unpaid North American 2015 personal property taxes totalling $147,558. The town also is owed $14,864 for the 2014 fiscal year and a separate amount for the 2016 fiscal year. The unpaid 2016 personal property tax amount was not available Tuesday.
Town officials had hoped that the lien would give the town leverage to prevent the razing of the buildings, Scally said.