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Fort Fairfield Town Council approves budget, official ReEnergy redevelopment contract

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — The Town Council unanimously approved the 2020 municipal budget as well as an agreement to return the site of the former ReEnergy biomass plant to the town during its meeting on Wednesday, June 19.

The $5.39 million budget has a $95,622 projected surplus, with the potential for a slight increase due to the new state budget’s increase of revenue sharing from 2 percent to 3.75 percent for municipalities. Fort Fairfield will calculate property valuations and the estimated property tax rate in mid-August and set the tax rate during the council’s Sept. 18 meeting.

In accordance with Town Manager Andrea Powers’ recommendation, all five councilors approved the budget. There were no public comments during the brief budget vote. Powers noted that there also were no public comments during the April 24 and May 8 budget meetings.

Councilors also approved and signed an official site redevelopment agreement from the New York-based company ReEnergy, which shut down its biomass plant in Fort Fairfield in 2018 after concluding the plant was no longer economically viable. Powers said the agreement transfers the 32-acre site, located at 78 Cheney Grove Road, back to the town.

ReEnergy CEO Larry Richardson, left, talks with Irving Woodlands wood fiber manager Roy Bernard inside the ReEnergy biomass plant in Fort Fairfield during an open house on Oct 18, 2017.
(Staff Photo/Anthony Brino)

Powers told councilors that she and the town’s attorney met with ReEnergy’s chief risk officer William Ralston, director of communications and governmental affairs Sarah Boggess and the company’s attorney to produce the agreement.

Although ReEnergy has shown the property to interested parties in recent weeks there are no redevelopment plans for the site. The company plans to demolish the former plant this summer.

“We’re working with Aroostook Partnership and ReEnergy to find other industries that might be interested in the property,” Powers said, referring to the Aroostook Partnership economic development organization.

In other business, the council voted in favor of continuing a “tax club” that allows residents to pay their taxes in 12 monthly payments, with each payment due before the tenth of each month. Since Fort Fairfield commits taxes on Oct. 1, Powers said, payment of taxes prior to that day are considered pre-payments.

The Fort Fairfield Town Office will close at noon on Friday, June 28, so that staff members can complete the fiscal year-end closing of financial records. The office will reopen at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, July 1.

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