Solid Waste District gets $1 million grant for gas conversion

September 15, 2010

BERLIN - A key component of the $4.69 million funding package to build a gas pipeline to the Fraser mill in Gorham has been awarded to the Androscoggin Valley Regional Disposal District.

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen yesterday announced that the U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded $1 million to the district for the project which will allow the mill to burn both natural gas from the nearby Portland National Gas Trasmission System pipeline and methane gas from the district's Mt. Carberry landfi ll.

"We're extremely pleased we've been awarded the funds," said AVRRDD Executive Director Sharon Gauthier.

Gauthier said the $1 million grant represents 21 percent of the cost of the project.

The gas conversion project is one of the conditions required by the Manchester-based investment group, MerchantBanc before it would purchase the Gorham mill. Converting the mill from burning fuel oil to a combination of land-fill-methane and natural gas in its two boilers will result in an effi cient, signifi cantly less expensive operation.

The district had until July 30 to arrange the funding package. The sale of the mill to MerchantBanc is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 30.

"This project is a major opportunity to bring jobs and investment to struggling North Country families and communities," said Shaheen.

"The North Country has been hit hard by the loss of our paper and pulp industry in recent years, and I am determined to support projects like this one that promote sustainable development and economic growth in this critical region," Shaheen said.

The $1 million EDA grant is part of a complex mix of funding sources. The city of Berlin applied for and was approved for a $470,000 Community Development Block Grant. The grant has been approved by

the Governor and Executive Council. The N.H. Business Finance Authority has authorized a $710,000 loan that will go before the Executive Council for approval shortly. That loan will be repaid out of revenues generated by the sale of the landfi ll gas. The district also applied for a $250,000 Northern Borders States Commission grant expected to be announced at the end of this month.

The district agreed to put up the remaining $2.274 million with the money to be repaid through the sale

of methane gas to the mill. Gauthier said, however, the district last month voted to apply for a $400,000

Community Development Finance Authority loan that would also be repaid out of methane gas revenues.

The district has a 60-day waiting period before it can move on the loan to allow member communities to comment on the decision. If the board votes to go ahead with the loan, the amount of money to be put up by district would be reduced to $1.87 million.

Of the approximately 240 employees at the Cascade mill, 133 live in Berlin, 59 in Gorham, 28 in Milan, four in Randolph, three in Errol, two in Stark, and 8 from other communities.

By:  Barbara Tetreault
Source: Berlin Daily Sun