Woman proposes new uses for former jail

Posted April 14, 2009, at 11:04 p.m.

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — A local entrepreneur is asking the public to show support for her plan to buy the former Somerset County Jail and convert it into a gristmill, bakery and artisan shops.

Amber Lambke said the Somerset County commissioners would be reconsidering the sale of the jail at 4:30 tonight in the Somerset County Courthouse meeting room.

Lambke originally had entered into an agreement last year with commissioners.

“The purchase and sale contract I had was nullified by the neighboring theater owner’s refusal to agree to terms of use for a parking area that he has been leasing from the county,” Lambke said Tuesday. “Since the original request for proposals from the Somerset County commissioners office in 2007, the aim for the old jail’s disposal has been economic development, job creation, and a return to the tax roll. With an allegiance to creating a vital future for downtown Skowhegan, we aim to launch our gristmill project from the old jail facility. Enthusiastic local food producers and area artists are eager to rent space.”

Lambke said the purchase price of $65,000, which has been criticized as too low, pales in comparison to what it will cost to convert the building. She estimates that hundreds of thousands of dollars will be required to retrofit the antiquated jail.

She also said she is ready to preserve 13 nonexclusive parking spaces and a pedestrian easement for neighbors on Court Street.

“With wheat in the ground, financing in hand, and work for hire, I urge Somerset County residents to support Somerset Grist Mill’s purchase of the old jail and lot,” she said.

Lambke said she is hoping a local show of support will convince the commissioners that her proposal should be approved. “I hope to have supporters call in their support tomorrow, or show up at the meeting to speak during the public comment,” she said.