EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — A Florida-based demolition company has applied to raze buildings at the former Great Northern Paper Co. mill site here despite a developer’s interest in the facility, town officials said Monday.
But the revised permit application North American Recovery Management of Boca Raton filed with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to tear down buildings at the Main Street site lacks some environmental information.
Permit review will not begin until the missing pieces are provided, and the company will not be allowed to knock down any buildings there in the meantime, according to DEP spokesman David Madore.
“In our communications with the applicant, DEP has made a distinction between removing assets from inside buildings and actual building demolition to NARM as building demolition is activity that will require an amendment to their existing permit,” Madore said Monday in an email.
DEP “has been consistent in our message to the town, applicant and interested parties that the owner is allowed to take equipment out of the buildings and can even cut a hole in an exterior wall to remove equipment, but that the structural integrity of the buildings cannot be compromised in the process,” Madore added.
North American Chief Financial Officer Jason Inoff declined to comment when reached via email on Monday. Katherine Joyce, an attorney at Bernstein-Shur handling the DEP application for North American, did not respond to email and telephone messages left on Monday.
North American also has not responded to several attempts by the town to communicate, according to Angela Cote, East Millinocket’s administrative assistant.
Mark Scally, chairman of East Millinocket’s Board of Selectmen, said Saturday that town officials were concerned about what he described as heavy demolition equipment at the former mill site. The equipment arrived late last week, and Scally said Monday that he learned of its presence on Friday.
Town officials agree that North American has the right to handle its property as it pleases, but they fear that building demolition would scare off a potential investor in the site who has discussed his plans with state officials, Scally said.
Yet Scally, citing confidentiality concerns, declined to identify the investor or what that investor might do with the property. He also would not name the state officials he said were involved in discussions with that investor.
East Millinocket officials have often said in the past that investors were interested in revitalizing the mill site but never named them. The site has remained vacant since the mill closed.
For more than a century, the site had been home to a paper mill that the town was built around. That history, the investor’s interest, and a lien that town officials have against the site for nonpayment of property taxes give the town a pronounced interest in the site. Town officials have contacted members of the state’s federal delegation and several state legislators as well as state government officials to protect the town’s interests and delay demolition, Scally said.
“The buildings themselves can do a lot more than just make paper. We know that [the site] is never going to make paper again, but if you remove those buildings, the potential of it goes down the drain,” Scally said Monday.
Town officials first became aware of the latest investor’s interest in the site when state officials contacted them, according to Scally. That the investor was in discussions with the state underlined the investor’s serious intent, he said.
“I just hope there haven’t been too many roadblocks that have been placed in front of them,” Scally said. “These people can go to several different locations.”
Democratic Sen. James Dill of Old Town, whose district includes East Millinocket, said he hopes to determine the potential investor’s bona fides and whether the state can help the investor or prevent the demolition, if need be.
“I can understand removing the equipment because it had no bearing on what [the investor] is going to be doing, so I don’t know what has happened to stop [the sale of the property]. I haven’t heard anything that [a sale] wasn’t going forward,” Dill said Monday.
The amended permit application filed with DEP indicates that North American wants to raze two two-story paper machine buildings totaling 230,462 square feet — the two-story, 43,780-square-foot screening room building and the 20,412-square-foot disk filter building, which is three stories.
No permit hearing dates have been set, officials said.