East Millinocket has a tentative deal to buy the former Great Northern Paper mill site that for generations was home to the town’s and Katahdin region’s biggest employers.
And the site might soon be home to the first business there since GNP closed six years ago.
Residents voted 44-0 during a special town meeting on Thursday held at the town Public Works Department parking lot to approve town government’s closing on the deal with site owner North American Recovery Management by May 31 and to allocate $250,000 from the town’s fund balance to pay for site improvements. The town’s meeting warrant said that two of the site’s six buildings, the paper and recycling warehouses, “will accommodate a potential leaseholder of these buildings starting January 2021.”
Peggy Daigle, chairwoman of the town Board of Selectmen, declined to discuss the leaseholder, but said that town ownership of the land is a significant step forward for the town.
“The unanimous vote is great to receive as confirmation that the past 1.5 years of work to purchase the property has been a worthwhile endeavor,” Daigle said. “This purchase puts the town in the position to diversify its local industrial economy.”
Town ownership of the land will place in public hands one of the Katahdin region’s main industrial areas, where 212 workers lost their jobs when the East Millinocket mill closed for good in 2014. The sister mill in Millinocket closed in 2008, resulting in the loss of 208 jobs.
Located between Route 157 and the Penobscot River, the 215-acre site is only four miles from Interstate 95; has more than 222,000 square feet within its six buildings; and access to railways that connect Quebec to Searsport and the river, according to the town’s public meeting ballot.
Papermaking stopped for good in the Katahdin region, home to that industry for more than 100 years, in February 2014. Bankruptcy proceedings led to the December 2014 sale of the site to Hackman Capital Partners. Ownership has since changed, with a Florida company that specializes in demolishing obsolete properties, North American Recovery Management, buying the property in March 2016. At one point, a potential suitor that proposed to build a biorefinery fought to halt the mill’s demolition, but then ran into financial hurdles.
The mill was eventually dismantled in 2017.
The property’s owner is currently listed as Katahdin KI 50, LLC, which has the same principal as North American Recovery Management.