‘Encouraging’ growth reported in Houlton

Posted Feb. 12, 2010, at 9:56 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:34 a.m.

HOULTON, Maine — Although the economy sagged in 2009, the town saw economic growth.

At the same time, town and economic development officials were working to secure more projects.

During a Town Council meeting earlier this week, Town Manager Doug Hazlett announced that the town’s code enforcement office has issued permits for residential and home construction valued at $6.1 million. The office also issued building renovation permits with a $6.7 million valuation, for a total of $12.8 million in new tax valuation for the municipality.

“This is a very encouraging sign,” Hazlett told councilors.

At the same time, the town is working with the Southern Aroostook Development Corp., an organization that has worked for more than a decade to boost the economic base of the region.

At this point, most of the storefronts in downtown Houlton are full, and businesses are popping up on the outskirts of town. Numerous businesses have expanded as well.

Hazlett said he and other town officials have joined with SADC to attract businesses while stressing the importance of supporting existing businesses. Hazlett said officials also are working to find ways to help local businesses lower their energy and fuel costs.

Jon McLaughlin, SADC’s executive director, told councilors that one of the most promising projects in town, the development of a senior citizen housing complex, is on track for a July completion date.

About two years ago, Coastal Enterprises Inc. announced plans to build a $2.5 million, three-story apartment complex in Market Square. The facility, Market Square Commons, will create 28 units that will be rented to seniors in one- and two-person households. Five units have been set aside for tenants with visual impairments.

Residents who meet eligibility standards will pay rents of $430 to $575 a month, including all utilities, according to information provided by CEI.

Financing for the project came from MaineHousing, an independent state agency that combines public and private housing funds, along with other sources, to benefit Maine’s low- and moderate-income residents. CEI is posting a $600,000 financial commitment to the project.

Officials broke ground on the project last August.

The complex will be one of the greener facilities in town, with solar panels on the roof and wood pellet heating. He added that CEI officials have expressed interest in conducting other projects in the community.

While Hazlett acknowledged that “the economic downturn has made things more complicated,” he said the town continues to grow.

“Overall, we are encouraged,” he said.

Councilor Paul Romanelli, citing the $12.8 million in new tax valuation for the municipality, agreed.

“We are always looking for success,” he acknowledged. “I think we have found some.”

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