June 10, 2015BERLIN — Gorham Paper & Tissue (GPT) started in mid-September 2014 to make a $3,600 payment every week to the Androscoggin Valley Regional Refuse Disposal District (AVRRDD) for its tipping fees, executive director Sharon Gauthier explained on Thursday.
As of May 18, GPT started making $10,000 per week payments for Landfill Gas (LFG), a byproduct of Mt. Carberry for which the paper mill is its sole customer.
In both accounts, dollar amounts over current billings, if any, are being earmarked to apply to older invoices.
As of May 31, nearly $18,000 in tipping fees had been earmarked to pay down unpaid bills. These overages will be accumulated and paid on a once-a-year basis to reduce old debt.
Older invoices, racked up since 2013, now total slightly over $1.1 million: $791,823 for LFG, and $309,028 in tipping fees.
May's minutes reflect Gauthier's relief at securing payments from GPT: "The Executive Director reported that GPT has paid the District the amount requested for the past two weeks!"
The GPT payments were made in response to AVRRDD board pressure.
The AVRRDD board had voted unanimously at its April 29 meeting that "effective May 18, 2015, GPT will be required to make prepayment of $10,000 per week for Mt. Carberry Landfill Gas and if prepayment is not received the landfill gas will be shut off to GPT and flared until the prepayment is received."
The board also voted "that should Mt. Carberry Landfill no longer be the primary disposal site for GPT sludge and other wastes and … becomes GPT's backup disposal site that, effective when the change is made, GPT will be charged the current district rate for tipping fees, which is $67 a ton for 2015.
Under the agreement made when AVRRDD purchased Mt. Carberry, the paper mill is only charged a tipping fee of $19 a ton.
This motion was made in executive session, and the board voted to seal the minutes until GPT had been notified of its decision. The minutes regarding both GPT decisions were unsealed on May 4 after the paper company was notified of these decisions.
Ten communities are members of the Disposal District: City of Berlin, Dummer, Errol, Gorham, Jefferson, Milan, Northumberland, Randolph, Stark and the Unincorporated Places. Despite their disparities in population, each receives only a single vote. Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier, who also serves as one of three county commissioners, represents the county's Unincorporated Places.
When interviewed briefly on Thursday, Grenier said that he remains optimistic about GPT and understands its papermaking operations are now turning a profit.
"Gorham Paper is working on diversifying its products; it's running the No. 6 tissue machine 24/7 and trying to fill out orders on no. 9 — a.k.a. Mr. Nibroc (that makes away-from-home toweling)," Grenier said.
One no-longer-used paper machine — no. 2 — has been dismantled and sold, and another — no. 3 — is being dismantled now, he said, adding that he believes both have been sold for scrap.
GPT, part of the Patriarch Partners portfolio, also owes money to the Town of Gorham, where the Cascades paper mill is located. A portion of the back taxes is being challenged by the company, since it believes that some of its property assessment is pegged too high.
The total taxes, plus interest, owed Gorham for 2013 and 2014 that is not under disputed= is approximately $390,000, explained tax collector Carol Porter.
The latest half-year 2015 tax bill mailed out on Thursday is for $192,921, due on July 6. That total, however, includes monies that are based on the same disputed assessment.