ELLSWORTH — Among the discussion topics for members of the Municipal Review Committee (MRC) board of directors at a meeting on Nov. 29 were a draft of the group’s 2021 budget and news of a prospective buyer of the Hampden waste-to-biofuel facility, which has been closed since May.
“I do know that the company that we’re currently working with is looking to close quickly and would plan to have the plant operational in the early part of 2021, if everything goes according to what we’ve been discussing,” said board president Karen Fussell the following day. “The devil’s in the details.”
The May closure followed the Coastal Resources of Maine plant losing over $14 million in funding investment, after enduring over two years of legal, construction and equipment issues. The MRC, which represents the waste disposal needs of 115 communities, owns the land on which the plant sits. The property is leased to Coastal Resources, a limited liability company owned by Fiberight and equity firm Ultra Capital. Fiberight technology is used at the plant. The plant was placed into state receivership in August, overseen by a court-appointed receiver until a new arrangement could be made.
The new arrangement is a buyer for the plant, with one rising to the top, based on board discussions at the meeting. As no contract has been signed, MRC Executive Director Michael Carroll and Fussell declined to name the buyer.
Fussell said “substantial progress” is expected over the next two weeks, ahead of a scheduled Dec. 16 annual meeting that will also reveal a finalized 2021 budget.
Currently, the plant owes $3 million, half of which is for loans, and over $1 million in taxes and costs associated with extra legal and technical consultants and making the waste facility operational, according to board discussion at the meeting. In addition, MRC has received no lease payments from Fiberight since April, causing board member Cathy O’Connor to ask whether revenue estimates were optimistic.
“The new buyer says they’re going to pay the payables,” Carroll said.
Complete details of the proposed 2021 budget, including estimates for revenues and expenses, were not available ahead of the Dec. 16 annual meeting, but Carroll did say that no increase in fees was planned for member towns.
Since the plant’s closure, the municipal waste from MRC’s 115 member towns — 27 in Hancock and Washington counties — has since been sent to a landfill or, after some towns made an arrangement with MRC, to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co.’s facility in Orrington to be converted into electricity.