DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — This town now owns a large plant on the Piscataquis River that is free of any environmental problems and has access to hydroelectric power but lacks a tenant.
Town officials learned that the former owners of the Moosehead Manufacturing Co. plant let the taxes on the factory, which is about 85,000 square feet, and land lapse so the property would become tax-acquired.
Town Manager Jack Clukey, who discussed the property with selectmen Monday, said the taxes on the plant and land had not been paid since 2007. Just over $44,000 was owed in taxes for the three years. The mill was in operation in 2007 but since it became vacant in the spring of that year, the taxes have been about $8,000 annually, Clukey said.
“They [the owners] were working very hard to make a transaction prior to the foreclosure date,” Clukey said Tuesday. The owners held an auction of the Dover-Foxcroft property and inventory in November but only the inventory was sold.
Clukey said the former owners are willing to help the town market or redevelop the facility.
John Wentworth, former president of Moosehead Manufacturing, said Tuesday the owners decided to let the property go because of the poor economy. While interest has been expressed in the land and building, no one has been forthcoming with the funds, he said. The family would rather see the building developed than have it deteriorate, Wentworth said. He said the town was in a better position than a private company to get grants for its redevelopment.
The longtime furniture company went out of business and closed its operations at its plants in Monson and Dover-Foxcroft in the spring of 2007 because it became too difficult to compete with cheap foreign imports. The Monson plant later was purchased by a group headed by Joshua Tardy of Newport, and the company is making furniture under the name Moosehead Furniture.
Since the announcement was made that the Dover-Foxcroft plant was closing, town officials have been working with the owners to find a tenant, according to Clukey. The town obtained a Community Development Block Grant last summer that paid for a reuse-redevelopment study.
“We know from the redevelopment study that the most likely redevelopment would be mixed use, where you have perhaps some retail, perhaps some office, perhaps some housing going on there,” Clukey remarked.
What should help sell the building, according to Clukey, is that there are no environmental barriers on the site. He said the Department of Environmental Protection completed a two-phase assessment of the property and the small amount of work identified was addressed by the former owners. He said the DEP has since filed a report with the town that no further environmental action was required.
The factory has a dam nearby owned by the town and leased to Tim Huff of Moosehead Energy. Through negotiations, the dam could play a role in the future operation of the mill, say town officials.
Those attributes will be touted to potential investors or developers, Clukey said. “We need to continue to talk with people who have shown interest and look at some creative ideas,” Clukey said.