Twin Rivers Paper's mill sits in the middle of downtown Madawaska and is located at one end of the international bridge connecting the community with Edmundston, New Brunswick, seen here in the background. Credit: Linda Pelletier | Fiddlehead Focus

Madawaska selectmen on Feb. 11 denied Twin Rivers Paper Co.’s request for a more than $100 million abatement on its 2018 tax assessment.

The town assessed the mill property at $178,069,925, but in its abatement application, which was filed on Jan. 16, Twin Rivers argued that the property has “a just value of no more than $72 million as of April 1, 2018.”

Among the reasons cited on the application, Twin Rivers stated that the town’s assessment of the mill property was 92 percent higher than the previous year’s valuation when it paid $1,883,169 in taxes. Under the current assessment, the mill would pay about $1.7 million more in taxes this year.

The mill argued in its application that the town’s appraisers “substantially overvalued” the property, that the appraisal was performed by unlicensed appraisers and that it was “deficient in various respects.”

The application concluded that the mill property was assessed “at a higher percentage of just value than other property in town” resulting in “unjust discrimination” and “unequal apportionment of the tax burden.”

Town Manager Gary Picard said he was not sure why Twin Rivers argued that the appraiser was unlicensed.

“The town received a list of appraisal firms qualified to do industrial appraisals, and the town selected a firm through a request for proposal process,” Picard said. “The appraiser [MR Valuations of New Jersey] has already done industrial appraisals in Maine including Expera/Old Town Mill, and the Town of Easton for the Huber & McCains operations.”

Reading from a prepared motion before the selectmen voted to deny the request, Selectmen Don Chasse said, “The board is not convinced of the merit of [the mill’s] arguments.”

“The taxpayer has failed to demonstrate that the assessment is manifestly wrong,” he read.

The mill has 60 days from the select board’s denial of the abatement to appeal the decision to the state board of property tax review.

Continuing to read from the motion that the five selectmen unanimously approved, Chasse said, “It is, however, this board’s hope and expectation that the taxpayer will continue to engage in dialogue with the town assessors so that this matter can be resolved on fair and equitable grounds.”

The attorney from Pierce Atwood who submitted the abatement application for Twin Rivers could not be reached for comment regarding whether his client would appeal. As of Tuesday, Twin Rivers has not yet responded to the town.

“We’ve set in motion a process, and by law that process is spelled out, and they have X amount of time to follow through on this and do what they need to do, but we’re in hopes that we can still continue to talk and come to a resolution, hopefully, at some point,” Chasse said during the selectmen’s discussion on the abatement application.

This story was originally published in the Fiddlehead Focus.