BUCKSPORT, Maine — The town manager expressed confidence Wednesday that the site of the former Verso Paper mill will be clean enough to allow construction of a proposed $250 million salmon farm this spring.
Site owner American Iron and Metal, a scrap metal recycler, is doing demolition work on the 250-acre waterfront property, while Whole Oceans, the company proposing the salmon farm, seeks permits for the farm, Town Manager Susan Lessard said.
“If you look at the whole picture, about 70 percent of what was there in the beginning that needed to come down has come down,” Lessard said.
AIM Development acquired the property from Verso in 2015 for $58 million after the paper mill shut down in December 2014. According to a Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit issued for the project, the demolition would cost $4.45 million, and generate approximately 14,000 cubic yards of construction and demolition debris, all of which would be disposed of at the Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock or the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town.
Town officials hoped the demolition project would be completed by the summer of 2017. The town set a completion timeline in the demolition permit it issued to AIM the year of the purchase, but work fell behind after a former demolition contractor failed to pay subcontractors for work they had done at the millsite.
As part of the requirements of its demolition permit with the town, AIM posted two bonds totaling $4.5 million to ensure that the project will be completed.
Lessard said that some of the infrastructure associated with the paper mill’s power plant was removed from September to November. Functioning electrical conduit from the mill was put underground, Lessard said.
AIM also cleared “a considerable amount” of concrete rubble piled on the acreage of the site where a Maine Maritime annex is proposed as part of an agreement with the academy to help it prepare for its move into on the millsite this spring, Lessard said.
The school plans to use an education facility Verso had on the site and is conducting a 60-day due diligence review before possibly signing a purchase-and-sale agreement.
In addition, AIM extracted reinforcement pins from the concrete on the site and had left the rubble there in case it was needed as landfill for site projects, Lessard said.
“The fact is, there’s no requirement that says they have to take everything down. They agreed to remove things to aid with the marketing of the site, and they also did it for their own work,” Lessard said.
An attempt to contact AIM officials was not successful Wednesday.