HOULTON, Maine — The town gained momentum in its efforts to make itself more pedestrian-friendly and helped a longtime business affected by fire get closer to reopening during a Town Council meeting earlier this week.
During the hourlong meeting, councilors approved the five-year lease-purchase of a new sidewalk tractor. The machine will be used to plow snow off sidewalks during the winter, a task that has been daunting for the town over the past few years.
The town will pay $25,091 per year for five years to gain ownership of the 2009 tractor from a Skowhegan firm. The funding will come from the municipality’s capital reserve account.
Town Manager Douglas Hazlett said the new tractor will replace a 1990 model that “has not been very reliable.”
“It is past its prime and we are having trouble getting the parts that we need to fix it,” he said. “We have budgeted the money, and we accepted the lowest bid we received of the three bids that were submitted to us.”
Chairman Paul Cleary pointed out that the tractor is “definitely needed.”
In past years, the 1990 sidewalk tractor has broken down numerous times, at one point for nearly the entire winter. That drew complaints from residents, particularly fitness enthusiasts and those without motor vehicles, who said they were forced to walk in the streets because the sidewalks were clogged with snow.
Construction crews were in town all summer revamping roads and sidewalks after taxpayers approved a $1 million bond to finance the work. Although some work remains, the majority of the sidewalk reconstruction is complete.
In other business, the council also approved the transfer of an on-premise liquor license for the Elm Tree Diner. The diner, which is located at 146 Bangor St., was ravaged by fire last month. The accidental fire was caused by a malfunction in the building’s electrical system.
Gary Dwyer, who owns the landmark diner, had applied for a renewal of the diner’s liquor license before the fire. It came up on the council agenda the day after the fire. Councilors unanimously approved the license at the time in the hopes of the diner reopening.
Late last month, Dwyer announced he would open his restaurant in a new space until he can rebuild at the Bangor Street location. The restaurant will reopen temporarily in the North Street space vacated when a Governor’s Restaurant closed in April 2008.
Councilors voted unanimously to transfer the liquor license to the North Street location. Dwyer expects to reopen in the next few weeks.