BUCKSPORT, Maine — The Jed Prouty Inn has been a fixture on Main Street for more than 200 years, and town councilors hope to ensure that it remains there as a viable business for many more years.
Councilors on Thursday supported the idea of hiring a consultant to find a developer who can turn the property once again into a vital part of Bucksport’s downtown.
But they stopped short of approving a final contract for those services after raising some questions about the nature of the agreement.
The Jed Prouty operated as an inn and eatery for well over a century, but in recent decades businesses have had difficulty making a go of it in the three-story structure.
According to Town Manager Roger Raymond, the building has been vacant more often than not during the 25 years he has worked for the town.
The building has been vacant for several years, and town officials expressed concern that it could deteriorate if it is not occupied soon. Raymond noted that the town had forced the current owners to shore up the sagging front porch, which was in danger of collapsing.
Councilors also expressed concern that the vacant building could have an impact on the rest of Main Street.
The recommendation to hire a consultant came from the town’s economic development committee and Raymond. Economic Development Director David Milan recommended working with consultant Bob Baldacci, who, among other projects, worked as a consultant on the Portland waterfront development. In discussions, Bal-dacci had agreed to a success fee of $20,000, which meant that he would be paid only if he was successful.
Milan said his initial definition of success was a sale of the property to a developer. Councilors, however, expressed concern that the simple sale of the building, with no plan to develop or use it, would not be beneficial to the town and that it would not really be a success. They asked for a clarification of the term before they ap-proved the contract.
The councilors also raised questions about the fee itself. Raymond said Prudential, the agency that is listing the property, has agreed to allocate half of its commission toward the consultant fee. Councilor David Kee suggested that the town seek some contribution from the current owner of the property.
Milan noted that the property, which was foreclosed on several years ago, is owned by Lehman Bros., which is in bankruptcy.
“Everything they do has to go through the courts,” he said.
Councilors also suggested that the consultant’s fee be based on a percentage of the sale price, a move Milan said would not be accepted by Baldacci.
Doug Robinson, who owns the brick bank building next to the Jed Prouty, which also is for sale, urged the councilors to stop “nickel and diming” the process.
“Who cares if it sells for $40,000 and he makes $20,000 if we can get ourselves out of this hole?” he said.
Milan and Raymond will rework the contract with the consultant and bring a revised version back to councilors for their approval, likely at the next council meeting later this month.
Despite the discussion, Milan said he remains confident the Jed Prouty building can become a vital part of the downtown business district.
“If we can find the right developer, I know we can do something there that will be good for the town,” he said.