BUCKSPORT, Maine — The Maine Maritime Academy has reached a preliminary agreement to acquire approximately 6 acres at the former Verso paper mill site in Bucksport, a school official said Tuesday.
MMA is “in the early stages” of establishing a safety and offshore survival institute at the site, MMA President William J. Brennan acknowledged late Tuesday afternoon when contacted by the BDN. The institute would house a training facility with buildings and ancillary equipment to allow what Brennan called “one-stop shopping” for training and recertification for students and mariners.
He said it would provide MMA “the opportunity to raise revenue to augment the college’s operational income needs.”
Brennan had no further comment on the cost or the timeline.
AIM Development, a subsidiary of Montreal-based scrap metal dealer American Iron & Metal, acquired Verso’s 250-acre waterfront property last year for $58 million.
Jeff McGlin, AIM’s vice president for development, said Tuesday afternoon he was unaware of any preliminary deals between his firm and MMA.
Rich Rotella, Bucksport’s community and economic development director, said Tuesday that he also was not aware of MMA’s plans but would look into it.
Rotella did say that a new general contractor, Independence Excavating of Cleveland, had begun work again Monday on demolition of former mill structures on the property.
Work on tearing down buildings at the defunct mill ceased in early March after the former demolition contractor, DeNovo Constructors, failed to pay subcontractors for work they had done at the mill, which shut down in December 2014.
AIM soon after began looking for a new general contractor to take over the demolition project.
Because of time lost, the project is about a month behind, Rotella said. Current demolition hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. At a meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, town officials will consider an ordinance to extend those hours, he said.
“The quicker that [mill] comes down, the quicker redevelopment can happen,” Rotella said.
If the ordinance is approved by the council, it must still be presented to residents at a public hearing that would take place April 28, he said.
“The last time it went to a public hearing to change the hours, it was declined,” he said.
Rotella said town officials still are optimistic the demolition project will be completed by the summer of 2017. The town set a completion timeline in the demolition permit that it issued to AIM last fall.
As part of the requirements of its demolition permit, AIM has posted two bonds totaling $4.5 million to ensure the project will be completed.
AIM officials have not indicated what they will do with the site once the mill is demolished, but they have suggested they likely will try to redevelop it, as they are trying to do with another former Verso mill in Sartell, Minnesota. They have said they will not use the site as a permanent metal recycling facility.