ANSON — After weighing all of the “risks and the rewards” Wednesday night, Anson residents voted to accept the closed Madison Paper Industries sludge landfill, along with more than $2 million from the paper mill’s former owners to maintain it.

There was plenty of discussion over the town’s ability to afford the upkeep of the landfill and if it was safe, but residents voted 18-16 to accept it.

Voters also agreed to use money from a town reserve account to proceed with a lawsuit against former Anson Tax Collector Claudia Viles, now serving prison time for embezzling more than $500,000 from the town.

The mill landfill, located above the Kennebec River in Anson, now becomes town property, and the money that was set aside by MPI for maintenance of the landfill — $2.4 million — will be turned over to the town to maintain the 66-acre site off Arnold’s Lane behind the post office. It is the last remaining property that the mill owned in Anson.

At the meeting Wednesday night a representative from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection told voters by phone over the public address system that if anything bad was coming out of the landfill they’d be seeing it by now.

“We don’t see anything unusual — we never have,” the DEP’s Linda Butler said. “We don’t anticipate any surprises.”

Investment adviser Randall Dean, of Madison, laid out ideas for using the MPI money for investment and engineer Peter Maher said there wasn’t any “dangerous type” of waste in the landfill.

Not all residents, including Anson/Madison Sanitary District Superintendent Dale Clark, were entirely convinced taking it over was a good idea.

But in the end, the “yeas” carried the question, but by just two votes.

The Madison paper mill closed in May 2016, leaving 214 people without jobs. The mill property was sold in December 2016 to a “joint venture” of New Mill Capital Holdings, of New York; Perry Videx, of Hainesport, New Jersey; and Infinity Asset Solutions, of Toronto.

The sale of the mill’s hydropower facilities to Eagle Creek Renewable Energy LLC, a hydroelectric power producer based in Morristown, New Jersey, was announced in April of this year.

The paper company used the landfill to hold sludge — wood chips and clay — from the papermaking process. Anson town officials have said the sludge was treated and is not toxic. The dump was closed and capped a couple of years ago under the direction of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The former paper mill owners had roughly $1.6 million set aside in a reserve account to maintain the landfill, along with $900,000 to transfer the landfill to the town for a total of $2.4 million.

Administrative Assistant Tammy Murray said earlier that the town will look after the site, doing routine mowing and upkeep to make sure it all remains safe and then will look into investing some of the leftover money.

“That’s the last piece that ties them to here,” Murray said. “They sold everything else.”

Legal teams for the town and the former mill owners now will draw up the needed paperwork for the transaction, to be finalized sometime in 2018. The money to be set aside also would be used for legal services in support of the town’s property tax abatement case involving the mill.

Anson Selectman John Bryant said the five-member board voted unanimously to accept the landfill — and the money — leaving the final decision up to voters.

Voters Wednesday night also agreed to take up to $45,000 from the town’s Insurance Claim Reserve Fund to pay legal and administrative costs for a pending legal case against Viles. A judge in Skowhegan sentenced Viles to eight years in prison in July. She will serve five years and then three years of probation for a class B felony theft conviction and nine months, to run concurrently, for 12 other crimes related to tax fraud and tampering with public documents.

Viles also was ordered to pay $566,257 in restitution to the town of Anson — $500,948 for the theft of excise taxes and $65,309 for economic loss to the town.

Murray said the town already has received $250,000 from the insurance company to cover some of the loss, and just recently Maine State Police turned over a check for $58,500 from money detectives discovered in a safe in Viles’ garage during their search of the property.

The town still needs to recover about $260,000, which Murray said the town is confident it will get with liens on Viles’ several pieces of property. She said the Viles family has “quite a bit” of property in the neighboring town of Embden and three parcels in Anson.

In other voting Tuesday night, Anson residents voted to appropriate up to $10,000 from the Fire Equipment Reserve Fund for repairing a town firetruck. Voters also agreed to appropriate up to $25,000 from the Insurance Claim Reserve Fund to cover the cost of water treatment made necessary by a line break at the North Anson Sewer Department earlier this year.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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