Creditors look to 'harvest' local company's assets
BRATTLEBORO -- From big-ticket items (a greenhouse, a 25-year lease) to the smallest accoutrements (a first-aid kit, a microwave oven), the assets of Carbon Harvest are on the market.
The Brattleboro company, which filed for bankruptcy in April, is being offered for sale piece by piece as creditors try to recoup their investments in the once-promising renewable-energy business.
Carbon Harvest sits on land owned by Windham Solid Waste Management District, where Executive Director Bob Spencer is pleased to see buyers solicited for the company's holdings.
"We've been anxious to see the (request for purchase proposals) come out, because obviously it's a project that the district spent a lot of time incubating," Spencer said.
"We are hopeful that it can be brought back to something close to its original intent."
Carbon Harvest had been touted as the "first integrated renewable energy-to-agriculture and algae biodiesel project" in the nation.
The company harvested methane gas from a closed landfill at the waste district site off Old Ferry Road. That gas generated power for the electric grid, and resulting heat warmed a greenhouse where produce was grown for sale to grocery stores.
Carbon Harvest also cultivated algae and produced tilapia.
A year ago, the company laid off most of its workers, citing a cash crunch. Then-President Don McCormick told the Windham Solid Waste board that he would try to turn the company around, but he was unsuccessful.
Vermont Economic Development Authority administrators have said they loaned Carbon Harvest more than $800,000. The authority now has a lien on the company's assets.
VEDA, along with the Vermont Agricultural Credit Corp. and a bankruptcy trustee, are listed as "offerers" in a request for proposals from anyone who might be interested in purchasing all or part of the Carbon Harvest operation.
Interested parties are invited to participate in tours of the facility at 327 and 355 Old Ferry Road. Open houses are scheduled for 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday.
Purchase proposals are due in electronic form at the VEDA office by Nov. 15. Sales are subject to approval by the bankruptcy court.
A complete list of the assets for sale, as well as directions for making purchase offers, is available for download at www.veda.org/bch-rfp.pdf.
The 130-page document includes a variety of items that were apparently required for Carbon Harvest's business model. A random sampling:
-- A lease/gas-purchase agreement dated Aug. 28, 2009.
-- A Vermont SPEED standard-offer purchase power agreement dated Jan. 14, 2010.
-- 14,400-square-foot greenhouse.
-- 7,560-square-foot metal building.
-- 8-foot-by-20-foot storage container.
-- 20 Fiberglas tanks ranging from 600 gallons to 3,400 gallons.
-- More than 150 air/oxygen diffusers.
-- One 15-foot-by-23-foot walk-in cooler.
-- One 4-foot exhaust fan.
-- A 1998 Polaris snowmobile.
-- Two Dell computers and two cameras.
-- Power tools including saws, drills and a drill press.
-- Two generators.
-- One fall-protection harness.
-- A refrigerator and a microwave.
-- Two kitchen cabinets.
-- More than 2,000 pounds of "graded filter sand."
While Windham Solid Waste Management District has a stake in whatever happens to the former Carbon Harvest operations, Spencer said the district is not directly involved in bankruptcy proceedings.
"It's really up to VEDA and the creditors who are trying to recoup as much of their investment as possible," Spencer said.
He noted, however, that district administrators have tried to make it easy for a new owner to pick up where Carbon Harvest left off. With VEDA now making the company's $500 monthly rental payments to Windham Solid Waste, the district has not declared Carbon Harvest in default.
That way, "if there is a new buyer, it would be a matter of amending (the lease) to reflect the new entity," Spencer said.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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