Pellet mill owners reopen; Red tape couldn't kill dream in spite of 3 years of waiting.
WINCHENDON -After three years of waiting and coming back from near bankruptcy - twice - while his wood pellet business sat idle, Jason W. Mughmaw had a big smile on his face while holding up his occupancy permit Tuesday.
An hour after he received it, he and business partner Randy Talancy of Holden were testing the machinery, cleaning up around the mill and preparing to generate pellets to fill orders.
"It was a long quest," Mr. Mughmaw said, who applied for a hearing with the state Building Code Appeals Board to finally get the mill inspected.
On March 1, the state gave Winchendon Building Commissioner Paul Blanchard 30 days to comply.
"The town refused to tell us what was wrong or inspect it for us," Mr. Talancy said. "They never cited us or gave us any reasons at all."
However, Mr. Blanchard said the only one Mr. Mughmaw has to blame is himself.
"He thought he didn't have to abide by the rules and regulations and that we didn't have jurisdiction," Mr. Blanchard said.
During prior inspections, the electrical work was shoddy at the mill, Mr. Blanchard said. He said he and the electrical inspector believed Mr. Mughmaw attempted to wire the mill himself.
"Nobody that knows what they are doing would be that bad," he said. "When he finally finished all the work, he had an occupancy permit within two hours. The whole project took three years for something that should have taken six months. The person he should be blaming is in the mirror."
For three winters, Mr. Mughmaw could not operate his $200,000 mill on Franklin Street.
And, Mr. Mughmaw said he has lost millions of dollars in sales.
"I really want to let people know I'm open, after all the duress and red tape," Mr. Mughmaw said. "I figured it out with my lawyers and I lost over $3.5 million. I'll never even recoup half that - not even close."
It all started with environmental red tape Mr. Mughmaw said he believed the town would take care of when he bought the 1.25-acre property from the town in January 2009 for $20,000.
The town, he said, never got state environmental clearance when it sold him the land for the mill.
Before selling Mr. Mughmaw the property, the town acquired funding to complete the first phase of a state-required study to determine if the property was contaminated. But the second part of the assessment, which requires testing and a clear determination on contamination, was never done.
Without that environmental clearance, Mr. Mughmaw said, he could not get the funding for remaining electrical and other work on the mill to obtain the occupancy permit.
That is where Mr. Talancy came in. About a year ago, he paid the back taxes on the mill and kept it out of foreclosure and paid for the necessary electrical work; however, the men alleged they struggled with the town for months to get it inspected.
"I've been trying to get into the wood pellet business for a while," Mr. Talancy said.
After putting in an unsuccessful $2.5 million bid on a pellet mill in Rumford, R.I., he said, he spotted an article in the Telegram & Gazette about Mr. Mughmaw's situation and called him.
Though the environmental assessment is still in question, the mill is up to code.
"It has been a long road for him," Mr. Talancy said. "They've given him quite the runaround."
Soon, the men may be looking for another occupancy permit, they said, to open up a retail store selling pellet stoves.
Town Manager James M. Kreidler said he was unaware the men had received their occupancy permit.
He would not comment further.
CUTLINE: Owner Jason W. Mughmaw holds up the occupancy permit for his pellet mill on Franklin Street in Winchendon.
PHOTOG: T&G Staff/PAULA J. OWEN