May 23, 2019

Destroyed mill taken off tax rolls

WEST ENFIELD – The town of Enfield has taken Cold Stream Lumber Co.’s sawmill off its 2005-06 tax rolls to help the company recover from a devastating fire last weekend.

The deletion removes $400,000 to $500,000 in appraised value from the company’s property taxes and will likely save Cold Stream as much as $10,000 when tax bills are mailed in July or August, Gerry Thurlow, the town’s assessing agent, said Thursday.

“We’ve removed the sawmill building and the property associated with it,” Thurlow said. “There are several other buildings on the property as well as the land itself that we will continue to assess.”

Assessments are being compiled. The town could have assessed Cold Stream for its sawmill, Thurlow said. State law requires all property be assessed as of April 1, but with bills not having been mailed and the company obviously in distress, town officials waived that requirement.

“If a homeowner’s building burnt, we would do the same thing, providing it’s within the same time frame,” Thurlow said. “We try to help businesses. It’s very unfortunate that these things happen. Hopefully they can get the mill back up and everybody can get their jobs back.”

The Cold Stream sawmill building, at 542 Hammett Road, was ablaze from end to end when the first firefighters responded to the company’s alarm at 1:20 a.m. Saturday, arriving about six minutes later. Neighbors reported hearing loud explosions, possibly propane torches or other flammables detonating in the heat.

Firefighters from four towns stopped the fire before it hit adjoining buildings housing wood planing and a kiln, but could not save the sawmill or prevent about $2 million in damage. The cause of the fire is undetermined and under investigation, Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland said Thursday.

Cold Stream, which employs about 50 people, was due to lay off 30 to 35 workers Thursday or today. Company officials were in a meeting late Thursday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.

Enfield Town Manager Theresa Thurlow and the Board of Selectmen are seeking state grant funds and other aid that might help the company rebound, Selectman Sonny Reed said, but it is a slow process.

“Everybody wants things to happen immediately, but [company officials] need time to get organized and determine the right course of action,” said Reed, who visited the company Wednesday with state Department of Labor relief team workers. “We want to get these people set up the best that we can.”

Reed complimented the state relief team.

“We’d like to have something good to tell you right away, but in all reality, having somebody come here by the third working day is not bad. At least we’re on the road to help,” Reed said.

Company officials said they hope to rebuild on site but that much depends on their fire insurance settlement, which has yet to be reached.

The fire, Reed said, is the latest setback to the Enfield area. A Dover-Foxcroft-based mill, the Pleasant River Lumber Co., was due to open a $17 million operation employing 70 people full time on U.S. Route 2 in the fall, but Pleasant River’s owners announced last month that the opening will be delayed a year.

“We need a lot of positive activity going on here to build up the job base,” Reed said. “Overall, Cold Stream is a huge selling base for this area. These workers buy a lot of goods and use a lot of services in this area. When a company like this has a fire, it’s bad for everybody.”

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