MRC talks 2021 budget, with buyer in sight

ELLSWORTH — With a buyer for the Coastal Resources of Maine waste facility in Hampden in the wings — Municipal Review Committee President Karen Fussell likened it to a Christmas present — the MRC’s annual meeting on Dec. 16 focused on a draft budget for 2021 and reopening plans.

“[MRC] will work with the new buyer and staff to draft a reopening plan,” said Executive Director Michael Carroll.

The waste-to-biofuel plant opened in 2019 but suspended operations last May, after Coastal Resources failed to secure an approximate $14 million bridge loan needed from investors. MRC then began a search for a buyer, receiving seven letters of interest in July. In September, the facility was placed in receivership, with a bondholder trustee given authority over decision-making. Since May, one-fourth of the municipal waste from MRC’s 115 member communities has been going to the Juniper Ridge landfill and three-quarters to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington.

The bondholder trustee, MRC and the potential buyer are currently hammering out a memo of understanding, a legally binding document, for the purchase. Fussell said when that is signed, the buyer’s name will be made public, likely before the year’s end.

As of November, the MRC holds $7,473,191 in five accounts, with just over $5.6 million in its Tip Fee Stabilization Account (TFSA), which requires a $4 million minimum balance. The tip fee account dates back to 2001, “a carryover from when MRC had ownership,” board member George Aronson said, and only earns investment income. A total of $1 million of that amount is earmarked for distribution to members, part of the agreement when MRC switched its partnership with PERC to Coastal Resources. The distribution payments began in 2019 in quarterly payments for 36 months

The rest is in a cash collateral account ($1,518,436, carryover from 2019); an operating budget stabilization account ($126,394, from member tipping fees); a custody account ($241,047, from TSFA transfers); and an operating account ($348,423, from member dues and TSFA earnings). Coastal Resources owes MRC $1.5 million, loaned before the plant closed, and MRC is working on repayment terms with the new buyer.

“We are in a bit of a transition phase so [the account overview] is different than prior years and likely different from next year,” Aronson added.

MRC is projecting $504,293 in revenues and expenses for 2021, an increase of $48,668.

“The MRC has money right now to fund its operations, to manage its obligations and to go forward, but things are tighter than they’ve been in the past,” Aronson concluded. “I don’t think that that’s a surprise for anyone.”

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]

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