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Fraser closing "not as bleak" as it looks, says Grenier


October 06, 2010
BERLIN—The failure of the recent purchase agreement for the Fraser Mill, although disappointing for many, is "not as bleak as it looks," said Mayor Paul Grenier at the City Council meeting on October 4.

"A lot of work has been done," said Mayor Grenier, "so that the property can be sold to someone who is going to make paper and not tear it down."

Mayor Grenier reported that at least five different suitors have expressed "more than a passing interest" in buying the property.

What has changed since May, at the time of the Merchant Bank negotiations, was a natural gas pipeline upgrade by the Androscoggin Valley Regional Refuse and Disposal District (AVRRDD). AVRRDD funded and permitted the natural gas pipeline, which will carry methane gas from the landfill to a natural gas blending facility, and then piped to the mill in Gorham.

The pipeline is an "asset" for the Fraser property, and increases the likelihood that it will remain a functioning mill rather than sold for dismantling, said Mayor Grenier.

Without the pipeline, "that site would be doomed," said Council Tom McCue, who is the Council representative to AVRRDD. In addition to preserving the jobs at Fraser, which was the initial purpose of the pipeline, the pipeline will also add value to the asset. When AVRRDD voted unanimously to go forward with the funding and permitting of the pipeline project, they were also preparing for the possibility that the paper mill agreement might not come together. As a result, "that site has strong possibilities for redevelopment," he said, rather than only dismantling.

"The Governor made it very clear that demolition bids will not be accepted at this time," said Mayor Grenier, who spoke to the Governor on Friday October 1.

"There is a lot of work going on, from local to state government, to put a deal together," said Mayor Grenier. "We're asking the community to hold on."

"It's very premature to get discouraged and give up," he concluded.

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