Officials in Millinocket have struck a tentative deal with Great Northern Paper to pay the town nearly $1.2 in million overdue property taxes.
Great Northern Paper owns a shuttered paper mill in Millinocket - a facility purchased three years ago for less than $1 as part of a deal with New Hampshire-based investment firm Cate Street Capital, which controls GNP. The same deal saw GNP also buy the mill in nearby East Millinocket - it too currently lies inactive.
The aim is to breathe new life into the economically depressed region. But before that can happen there are debts to be paid. Millinocket town manager Peggy Daigle says the new agreement extends a previous timeline, giving GNP until July 21 to pay the full amount, which is just shy of $1.19 million.
A series of payments will be made over the next two-and-a-half weeks, she says - money which the town sorely needs.
"I think it's important for the people and the town for payments to start being made," Daigle says. "We're going to be bumping up against a difficult period of time, if we don't start getting payments, to be able to continue to operate."
Daigle says the deal with Cate Street is dependent on funds generated from the recent sale of a key piece of GNP property - the gigantic Number 11 paper-making machine at the Millinocket mill.
The item is reported to have fetched about $2.5 million at auction last month, says Daigle, and it's now up to the company running the auction - Koster Industries - to disburse that money to the town and to GNP's other creditors.
"We've been led to believe there are adequate funds to make these payments," Daigle says.
But if, for any reason, the repayment timeline is not adhered to, says Daigle, "We will take any steps necessary to protect the town."
Earlier this week, frustrated town officials agreed to re-apply a property tax lien against GNP's valuable paper-making equipment in the event the company reneged on its payments - a measure which would prevent the paper-making machine from leaving its current location in the town, even though it's already, technically, been sold.
"I've been a manager since 1990, and I've never experienced this in my life, and I hope I never do again," Daigle says. "It's quite unusual and pretty devastating for the whole town, but I think we can get through it if we work together."
A spokesperson for Cate Street Capital was unavailable for comment for this story.