Rumford town manager 'disappointed' with mill's machine shutdown after tax reduction

RUMFORD — Town Manager Carlo Puiia said Tuesday that he is disappointed that NewPage Corp. will shut down its No. 12 paper machine indefinitely by mid-February.

Ron Hemingway, president of the Local 900 United Steelworkers, told the Sun Journal that "around 120 people" may be affected by that shutdown.

"Well, the mill's been very forward about the economic situation with the paper industry all along," Puiia said. "But, of course, it disappoints us when we hear those things that definitely affect our local workers versus companywide-type layoffs. This is more specific, where it's local.

"We're very concerned for those workers and their families and how this affects the mill," he said. "Hopefully, it is a situation that would change and they would restart the machines and bring the employees back to work. I'm being hopeful. But like I said, they've been very forward with us all along. It's a struggling industry."

Puiia said he hadn't heard that any paper mill employees lost their jobs Tuesday or were given termination or layoff notices. That's why he couldn't yet speculate on the fallout for Rumford.

"It was my understanding that hourly people wouldn't be affected until February, but there were maybe maintenance and administration people who had heard the news differently and they may be affected sooner," Puiia said.

"Considering that number of jobs and the number of paychecks, that's huge on our economy."

In March, NewPage officials and River Valley business owners urged Rumford selectmen to reduce the mill's taxes. At the time, town officials learned that NewPage could potentially shut down its Rumford Paper Co. subsidiary. Business owners also urged selectmen to reduce spending in their already-approved proposed 2013-14 budget.

Selectmen couldn't reduce the budget without calling for a special town meeting. Townspeople, however, in five months of special town meetings, pared more than $1 million from the budget before finally approving the last item on Election Day, Nov. 5.

But Rumford's biggest taxpayer — the NewPage mill — is the only benefactor of that budget reduction, Puiia said.

On Nov. 14, the assessors board notified NewPage that the mill's valuation dropped $46.6 million, going from $176,552,909 to $129,922,313, Puiia said. Mill officials haven't appealed that change yet, but could.

He said that valuation drop reduced the paper mill's property taxes by approximately $1.1 million. That also reduced Rumford's tax rate from $24.25 per $1,000 of real estate to $24.

"In the cuts that were made to the budget, the mill was the benefactor in the result that they're receiving a reduced property tax bill," Puiia said.

"Their valuation was reduced by $46.6 million, so they will pay $1.1 million less in property taxes. So because their value is less, we tax them less. So that's why I say the reduction of the budget was over $1 million and essentially it ends up that the mill is receiving the reduction."

"Basically, everybody else's taxes stayed about the same," he said. "For the most part, most people are going to see the same amount on their tax bill."

Puiia said although the meeting agenda for selectmen meeting Thursday, Nov. 21,  has been set, the town charter allows them to add an item such as the mill news.

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Phil Blampied's picture

Sad to see the distortions

Perhaps Terry caught Carlo at an inopportune moment, but if this story is right, the town manager is spinning the facts in an unacceptable and questionable way.

Had the town manager, the finance committee and the selectboard had their way, we would have had a budget about 14 percent higher than the one that finally passed.

Given the current circumstances, that would have created a substantial tax increase for every taxpayer in Rumford. It would have accelerated the rate at which properties are being abandoned due to non-payment of taxes, and lowered the quality of life for people living on fixed incomes who own property in Rumford. So saying New Page is the only beneficiary of the recent budget reduction is just downright bizarre.

SAVE RUMFORD battled town officials down to a reduction of their initial proposals of something less than $1 million, or about 14 percent. Town officials responded with anger, insults and abuse, yet, given this turn of events, it is now obvious that the only responsible thing to do all along was to make the reduction SAVE RUMFORD was fighting for.

It probably should have been greater than the 14 percent.

The problems with state funding and the reduction in the value of the mill were the :"handwriting on the wall" even last Spring, and the visit by the mill brass - the first ever in recent history - underlined that fact. It is amazing that, in light of the obvious, town officials were able to convince themselves that the town was a big cheese wheel from which they could cut an ever increasing slice.

Well, these guys need to go. Carlo is on the way out and everyone likes Carlo so they have mixed feelings, but how much do you want to pay the guy you like for these errors? In June, two of these perpetrators (can't think of a better word) are up for election. They must be replaced, unless you want to live in a ghost town.

Phil Blampied's picture

Logical fallacy

What I didn't point out above is how the town manager's connecting the budget reduction to the lowered assessment of the mill is a logical fallacy. The mill would have had its value lowered no matter how the budget came out. The only difference would have been, if the town officials' initial proposals had passed, is that the entire town would have had a $27 to $28 mil rate. This is an example of what I referred to as "upside down thinking" among our current leadership.

Further, voters supported a lower budget in part to try to reduce at least one of the financial stresses on the mill in the hopes that it might stay open somewhat longer, so yes, the mill did "benefit". But so will the people who keep their jobs a little longer and businesses that get at least a little more business from the mill before it does finally go down.

Bob White's picture

The only people to blame for

The only people to blame for this problem with any paper mill in the state are the people. People want jobs then you have people that don't wont those types of jobs. People want business then you have people that don't want those types of business. People want good paying jobs well people it doesn't take a person that makes 20 dollar plus an hour to make paper. Sure we all want to make money but come on. People want to be kind to the environment but we need to have a balance.
You can be angry at NewPage Corp but at the end of the day they need to make money!! If they are not making money what are they supposed to do? People that work at the mill or any place for that matter should Not ask what your job can do for you but what you can do for your job.


Something is missing….

from the article. SAVE Rumford was right. More should have been reduced from the town's budget, but the town manager, Rumford Selectmen and finance committee said no. And, fought the budget reductions.


SOP for bigger businesses

Threaten to leave town or reduce the work force. When the blackmail works, claim the economy (or at least the market) is bad - something they should have known - and then pull up stakes or lay off the workers anway.

TRhe second half of the story will never be public. It's the part about taking the money and running.

Betty Davies's picture


"Rumford's biggest taxpayer — the NewPage mill — is the only benefactor of that budget reduction."

It's called blackmail, and it's done in every city, town, and state in the US--give us a special tax break or we'll leave your town high and dry, taking your jobs with us!

The town essentially pays the salaries of an ever-larger proportion of the mill's workers. But the deal is not binding on the corporation--only on the taxpayers. The corporation got what they wanted, and they're slicing away jobs anyhow. A great deal--for them.

Mark Belanger's picture

The voters were the smart ones !!!!

If we had not voted down the bloated budgets given to us by the Town Manager and Select board we would be looking at a 2 to 3 mil increase. More must be done the next budget season.

Brad Gallant's picture


If the Save Rumford group would have supported the selectmen's budget in July we would have had about the same budget as now and would not have spent extras on elections. We spun wheels for two months and accomplished nothing; it is a hollow victory. Now a loud few are calling to freeze hiring; all that will do is increase overtime to reach a level of service the voters approved this past vote. If the people smart enough to actually accomplish things stopped being negative and worked toward a solution we would get a lot more done. How about we spend more time now being productive in working towards regionalizing services.


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