Interested parties in Millinocket, East Millinocket, Maine, meet to discuss property tax proposals for the two Katahdin paper mills sought by Meriturn Partners

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine , March 31, 2011 (press release) – Town leaders will meet with Millinocket officials on Thursday to discuss property tax proposals that are part of a San Francisco investment firm’s efforts to buy two Katahdin region paper mills for $1.

The executive session is set to begin in the town office at 7 p.m.

Closed-door negotiations or deliberations have occurred several times over the last few weeks, with Millinocket’s Town Council meeting on Friday, the most recent session. The confidentiality legally afforded such negotiations prohibited release of any details, though participants informally describe the sessions as slow-going.

Lee C. Hansen of Meriturn Partners said in an email earlier this week that negotiations were continuing and otherwise declined to comment.

Under a tentative agreement the company made with the mills’ owner, Brookfield Asset Management, Meriturn has until April 29 to negotiate a property tax agreement with East Millinocket and Millinocket and secure deals on several other aspects of revitalization of the Katahdin Avenue mill in Millinocket and the Main Street mill in East Millinocket.

If the Meriturn deal is made, the Millinocket mill closed since late 2008 would reopen, with 120-150 jobs created, and the East Millinocket mill’s 450 positions would be preserved. Brookfield has said it would close the mill on April 22 if no deal were made, though mill operators have said they could be flexible on the closure date if there is progress in the negotiations.

Meriturn must secure property tax breaks from East Millinocket and Millinocket, a deal with state or federal officials that would relieve the company of liability for an old paper mill dump in the Dolby section of East Millinocket, a labor agreement with the two mills’ unions, a partner to run a biomass boiler that is crucial to the Millinocket mill’s restart, and an electricity supply agreement with Brookfield.

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