EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — A nonprofit regional economic development organization will station an agent in the Katahdin region starting next month as part of an effort to enhance the area’s economy.
Eastern Maine Development Corp. of Bangor will earn $8,125 for having one of its representatives come to East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket once a week to work with businesses from Feb. 1 to June 30, 2010, town administrative assistant Shirley Tapley said.
“We are going to give it a try to see if it will work,” Tapley said Thursday.
EMDC has contracted with Millinocket to provide economic development services on an as-needed basis, but that effort has drawn relatively little interest, Millinocket officials have said.
Millinocket officials have wanted to increase that effort. They believe that the representative’s work also would help the region qualify for a federal grant that would pay a development agent as much as $500,000 for up to five years to improve the region’s economy, Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue has said.
The Katahdin Area Recovery and Expansion committee voted 14-2 during a meeting at the town office on Wednesday to fund the $8,125. Mark Scally and Jim Federico opposed the plan. The money will come from the $75,000 that Brookfield Renewable Power Inc. pays Millinocket annually as compensation for the Brookfield-owned mill’s shutdown.
Eastern Maine Development Corp. is a nonprofit organization that has been providing assistance to businesses and community leaders for 40 years in the region, according to its Web site, emdc.org. The organization has been working with a core service territory of more than 15,000 square miles, six counties, and a population base of more than 324,000 people.
A previous vote by the full KARE committee defeated the EMDC visitation plan by one vote despite a flood of Millinocket Town Council members attending that meeting. Under KARE rules, Katahdin selectmen and councilors can vote on KARE plans.
Most representatives from East Millinocket and Medway have balked at Millinocket’s proposal and have quietly expressed resentment at Millinocket’s push, saying that its town officials had in effect tried an end run around the committee whose job it was to screen such ideas.
The vote was KARE’s second on the Millinocket proposal. The board narrowly defeated an earlier Millinocket push to hire the agent, saying that Millinocket’s effort would undermine the volunteer KARE subcommittee of local business owners that recommended against the program.
Scally, chairman of East Millinocket’s Board of Selectmen and chairman of KARE meetings whenever they are held in town, said he still feels that way.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to do it,” Scally said Thursday. “By doing it this way, you are demeaning the status of the KARE committee. They already voted not to fund it and now you are telling them that their opinion doesn’t matter.”
Scally said he would have preferred to see each town fund the agent’s work, which would have cost the towns about $2,700 each.
“It looks better. It is spending your own money to show how valuable you think the service is and would have shown us really wanting to work together,” Scally said. “I understand the counterargument to that.”
Having the money come from the Brookfield fund made the pilot program “virtually a no-risk proposition,” Conlogue has said.
EMDC officials, Millinocket Town Council Chairman Scott Gonya and David Dickey, chairman of Medway’s Board of Selectmen, did not return telephone calls seeking comment on Thursday.