I was surprised by the anger that came across loud and clear in Rob’s recent letter. In our struggle to educate the public about what happens to a small town when its future is controlled by a few ruling elite, we sometimes forget that the truth can occasionally take away someone’s hope for a better tomorrow. The problem that I have experienced is the same anger that is displayed in Rob’s letter. When hope has to confront truth, denial or anger is the result.
In Rob’s first letter to the Star, he spoke only of common sense. I saw a hint of brilliance. He stated that MAGIC`s funding should be governed by their accomplishments. In other words, if they don’t do anything, don’t pay them anything. When I read that letter, my first thought was that people are finally coming around. I was wrong. It wasn’t long after that, another letter arrived singing the praises of MAGIC. The Hope, Faith and Charity Wagon train has claimed another.
In the brilliance of Rob’s first letter was the basis of all honor in civilized society: you work for a day and you shall receive a days pay. From the first livestock that was traded for grain back in B.C., until today, when I put hand my hand out for a check when I finish a job, nothing has changed. People who need services expect to pay for them; people who need supplies expect to pay for them. What has changed however, is what people need. Due to the collapse of the paper industry in a state that was run by that industry, that need has been shifted to an item that is not on the store shelf.
That need is HOPE.
In 1986 the first Hope train left the station under the name of the KRDC. There was not an open seat on that train, we were all going full steam ahead, every businessman, woman, Banker, company exec and all around nice guy was on that board. How could they fail? We even had the full cooperation of the GNP, or did we?
I processed a plan to build a small batch plant, in the pit area, through the KRDC. I was told that the company had very big, very secret plans for that area, and was denied the land. It was a lie. There is still nothing there. I later approached the company and KRDC with a proposal to build a vandalism proof, concession type building at Jerry Pond. The company lied again and told me that the area was zoned for house lots, right down to the water. I was again denied. I later learned that there is a 250-foot buffer between the house lots and the water.
During this phase of the area’s economic development, the company donated land in East Millinocket for the development of an Industrial Park. Yes, they did donate land, but the land in question, as it turns out, was not practical for that development. My experience with Industrial Parks came from touring parks in Bangor since I was old enough to sit in the front seat. During my many trips to Bangor, I noticed, even as a child, that ALL the industrial parks had only one thing in common, they were built on flat ground.
As an entrepreneur, I realize that people that start with small ideas, always envision their ideas as successful and always build expansion into their long-term plans. In an Industrial Park it is necessary to load and unload product with large trucks. For those trucks to maneuver, flat ground is required. For a building to expand, flat ground is required. My point has been made, not by me, but by the success of the buildings built there. The former Cormier building was built into a ledge pile, but because of its highway frontage, it has enjoyed limited success in retaining long-term occupants. Besides KA-TECH, the Jeff Baker building has been a shining example of success. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only building that was built on flat ground with room for expansion, and has always been occupied.
Why did we spend over a million dollars to develop this park, when a child of two with a minus 8 I. Q., could recognize that it was a bad idea?
A few short years later, the same Hope, Faith and Charity wagon train, left the station again, this time under the new name of “Vision 2000”. Again without an empty seat on the train, we ended up at the Schenck Auditorium. Again we gathered all of the areas best business and company minds to brainstorm a new future for the tri-town area. We set up committees, sub committees and provided positive attitudes to go along with our positive energy that they say is needed to attract new business to the area. During this period we had literally invented positive press, with a potential here and a potential there, it seemed as though the big one was always “just around the corner”.
The “Vision 2000” wagon train ran out of steam. But it was not long before the Millinocket Economic Development Advisory Council was formed to take that Hope, Faith and Charity wagon train out of the station again. And again, the positive attitudes combined with a collection of many of our brightest business and company minds to brainstorm new ideas and provide new hope of providing jobs and bringing in new businesses to the tri-town area. While we were forming new committees and sub-committees, a local entrepreneur proposed to build a “Scale Railroad”, on a 60-acre parcel he purchased for that purpose at the end of the Iron Bridge Road. Almost at the same time, our town’s Code Enforcement Officer, Jim Haskell, also a Harvard Graduate, proposed to build a “Moose Park”, just outside of town on Route 157.
It finally appeared as though all those brilliant people that formed MEDAC found the formula needed to turn positive energy into jobs for our town. But as it turns out, this area has a history of making good ideas go away. Gary Jandreau, hit huge snags in his dealings with the town, and Jim Haskell`s Moose Park disappeared when he passed away after a short illness. To this day, no one has revived either idea.
History has shown that despite the failures that occurred during the MEDAC period, the members of that group produced a quality video, maintained a high degree of integrity, and gave the residents of the area a strong sense of accomplishment. I call it HOPE.
In the last and most desperate chapter of our economic development history, or what I prefer to call the “hope, faith and charity wagon train”, we managed to shed the integrity and accomplishments of MEDAC, and install a group designed to copy the tactics of the Nature Conservancy, and perfect the art of saying one thing while doing the opposite. This new Group is called MAGIC. As it turns out, the definition as described in the dictionary; Slight of Hand, The Art of Illusion, Smoke and Mirrors, seems to be one of the two basic products they can produce. The other product is one we have gotten used to for several years now: Hope.
When I reveal the true mission of MAGIC, which is control, I have used only factual research to determine their mission, and yet, I am still accused of being negative. People need to believe that there is still hope out there, and for that I cannot blame them. But the Faith, Hope and Charity wagon train has actually run out of road. People can do the addition; a million dollars spent, NO JOBS produced.
The Gateway community research that I have compiled is available to all, at U.S. Parks.com. This research makes no mistake about the direction the wagon train must go in, and that direction is tourism. In Millinocket, that direction has been at the expense of industry and has indeed helped to shrink our small town. Take the annexation issue for instance, the 1988 annexation to the East netted us $98,000 a year in new taxes and produced four new businesses. That info was buried last fall, and was never allowed to see the light of day. Instead we were all treated to the lie about Brascan leaving because their taxes will increase, when in fact they would receive a refund.
The second requirement of Gateway Community status is high taxes. I do not mean seeing your taxes going from $1,200 to $1,500, which would be minor. According to my research the average $1,200 tax, will become at least $3,000 in five years. In gateway towns there are very few natives left when they are done. The increased tax will destroy the ability of the average “Grandma” to stay here, but to New Jersey or Connecticut resident, looking for a vacation home, $3,000 is chump-change.
While we are following the MAGIC wagon train to the end of this road, we need to go back to school for a minute and do some basic math and combine some well-known facts:
- Accepting the Newberry’s building as an LLC for a Community center that needs $30,000 today and has a half million-dollar price tag on its completion, will later remove that building from the tax roles. It also gives us taxpayers a surplus sucker, or money pit, that has not named one individual to be responsible for the outcome. Under the laws governing LLC`s, Sadamn Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, or even worse, the Nature Conservancy could own it and we would not know it. Expected taxpayer liability and tax revenue loss= $800,000
- Allagash Valve was loaned $250,000 with the expectation of producing 25 jobs. They are currently not in town due to a work slowdown. If they fail to produce those 25 jobs, Millinocket becomes liable. Expected Taxpayer liability = $150,000
- Brims Ness is also on the hook for 25 jobs and $250,000, and also borrowed $50,000 from our revolving loan fund. They currently asked for a moratorium on their loan, while they look for alternate financing. Expected Taxpayer liability = $300,000
- Recently, our Town Council agreed to pour $50,000 down a black hole at the former E&R building. Katahdin Paper owns this building. A recent conversation with Bob Boynton, who spent 20 years maintaining that building, reveals that his $50,000 salary, plus twice that cost of several licensed tradesmen, was required just to maintain that building. Not to mention the fact that the building is due for a $250,000 roof. Expected Taxpayer liability = $650,000
- The killing of the recent efforts to annex land and broaden our tax base before the citizens could vote on it has resulted in a loss of tax revenue Expected annual Taxpayer loss = $375,000
- Recent unexplained demolition of several commercial buildings in our Main Street area by an LLC, has removed annual tax revenue that is ongoing. If indeed everything is demolished that the LLC has purchased, the tax revenue loss can only grow. Present and anticipated Tax Revenue loss = $5,000 to $25,000
- Recent increases in the operating budget to MAGIC, have resulted in the loss of another $80,000 for fiscal year 2006, which begins in July of this year. This group has expended close to a million dollars in five years and has yet to produce a single living wage job. Despite this dismal fact, the group has no plans to change its` method of procuring businesses. In fact, the recent addition from Susan Collins of a grant totaling $198,000, to administrate a study that would determine what is needed to attract alumni back to this area, has no job creation benefits tied to it at all. Of all the money that was totally wasted in all of the above-mentioned projects, this project will, by far, prove to be the most outrageous waste of money ever. Expected Taxpayer loss = $80,000, this year. Past years = $1,000,000
- Plans announced by MAGIC to fill up the BRIC building with tenants have, to date, removed four commercial tenants from the private sector. Because they have room for over forty tenants, it is safe to assume that those tenants will also come from the private sector. Using the losses of the owners of the former Aroostook Ave. School as an example, their tenant loss to the BRIC has resulted in that buildings need to be sold. The age and condition of that structure make it entirely likely that it will be demolished for lack of investment dollars. Those investment dollars would be extremely easy to obtain if the BRIC was not sucking commercial tenants into its building. As the BRIC sucks the life out of commercial leasing business owners, they will be less likely to be able to maintain their buildings. While the BRIC increases its tenant load, there will also be increases in the demolition of our commercial sector. Yet, in a true Nature Conservancy style, all we hear about is the great benefit we will someday receive from the BRIC. Where is it? Have you ever tried to cash a potential paycheck? Annual Landlord losses today = Tens of Thousands. Next five years = Millions!
I started this article with an explanation of the “Hope” wagon train and how it has become self-sustaining. I will end it with some sobering facts;
- Every $375,000 increase in our cost to run this town, results in an increased tax to the taxpayer of one mil
- Brascan pays 59% of the taxes needed to run this town
- Brascan has cancelled any plans to build a TMP plant in Millinocket. A TMP Plant is necessary for the long-term production of paper in Millinocket
- The TIF agreement negotiated with Katahdin Paper, contains manpower requirements to be satisfied up until 2011, beyond that, they will receive the same tax benefit for dissection of the former mill complex until 2021
- Every project proposed and pursued by MAGIC, has to date, resulted in the loss of taxpayer’s monies and has not produced a single benefit to anyone outside of MAGICs` “Circle of Friends”
- Every project proposed that had a product to produce, by a local Entrepreneur with a market for that product, such as Carla Portwine & Bob Moscone, has been turned away by MAGIC. In spite of the denial of resources that their property taxes pay to maintain these Entrepreneurs will achieve success.
- This is a formula that has worked around the world, since the dawn of time, which simply does not work in Millinocket. Market + Product = Production, Production of Product = JOBS
As was indicated in the first paragraph, when truth meets hope, the result is usually anger or denial, so please don’t shoot the messenger. It is my intention to better inform the public with factual data, I believe that when you allow enough factual data to enter, you will stop believing what you hear, and start believing what you see.
I have no other agenda than to make it possible for the people who have always lived here to continue to do so, and in order for them to do that, they need to be able to find work in this area. If I’m going to be convicted of having an “agenda”, make sure you understand what it really is: Living wage jobs.
David P. Cyr