Alpena weighing options for biorefinery

ALPENA — The City of Alpena may have found a solution on how to avoid enforcing a lien against past and current owners of the Alpena Prototype Biorefinery and related companies that own the bio-plant behind Decorative Panels International, Inc.

The companies owe the city $875,396 in personal property tax, but after exiting closed session at Monday’s meeting, the Alpena Municipal Council voted to enter into a 90-day forbearance agreement.

This buys DPI time to explore future uses for the former biorefinery, which could include options for treatment of the wastewater produced.

If DPI finds a viable use for the bioplant, it would assume the tax debt, and make equal installment payments over an 18-month period, one tax year at a time.

If a practical use for the plant can’t be found, DPI, the liable companies, and the city will utilize a broker or liquidator that specializes in the sale of equipment like the refinery’s to market and sell it.

The sale of the personal property can not exceed one year.

If the amount of money raised from a sale exceeds what is owed in taxes, DPI will capture the balance and use it at its own discretion.

The plant — which began as a pilot operation to produce bioethanol from the waste discharged by DPI — received a $22 million U.S. Department of Energy grant with funds coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2008. Construction began in 2011 and operations initiated in 2012, but things began to go south from there, as large renovations were needed to correct waste processing issues.

The first batch of cellulosic ethanol wasn’t shipped until 2014.

Today, the plant produces wood molasses, used to manufacture feed pellets for livestock.

Alpena attorney Bill Pfeifer said the agreement isn’t official until DPI signs it, which it is expected to do.


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