Fort Kent council OKs loan guarantee for Lions Club

Posted May 11, 2010, at 2:47 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:30 a.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — Residents at a special town meeting Monday night authorized the Town Council to act as a guarantor on a $169,000, 10-year note on behalf of a local civic organization.

The Fort Kent Lions Club plans to combine the amount of the loan with additional monies it plans to raise through fundraisers for the construction of a 6,000-square-foot open pavilion at Riverside Park.

“This loan would be paid off by the Lions,” club member Stephen Gagne said at the meeting. “We hope to pay it off faster than the 10 years.”

The log and timber-frame building would sit on land owned by the town and, according to Gagne, become a public structure.

“This is something the town would own,” he said, adding that the building could be used for everything from family gatherings to large social events such as those associated with the upcoming World Cup biathlon next February.

While the Lions are behind the plan, not every service group is sold on the idea of a municipal-backed loan for a new facility.

“We already have three service clubs in the area with facilities,” Ricky Perreault, Grand Knight of the Fort Kent Knights of Columbus, said. “Once this new pavilion is built it would take away from the rest of us. … Renting our facilities is one of our bigger fundraisers.”

Gagne said there is little likelihood the proposed pavilion would draw would-be users away from the Knights of Columbus Hall, the senior citizens center or Lonesome Pine Lodge, all of which rent out their facilities.

“This building will not have walls,” Gagne said. “It will be more for functions like when you set up a big tent in the park.”

Because the proposed location is on the town’s flood plain, the structure cannot have walls, Gagne added, though it will have thick “curtains” and heaters inside.

“It is not the intent of the Fort Kent Lions Club to take money away from any of the service groups in town,” Gagne said. “This is simply a building we are giving to Fort Kent for use by the public.”

Under the loan agreement, the Fort Kent Lions are responsible for all payments, plus interest. If the club does default on the loan, the town then becomes responsible for any balance.

“The only way the town is responsible is if the Lions default,” Louis Moreau, council chairman, said. “If you know the Lions Club, you know there is no way they will default on a loan.”

Gagne said the Lions have already entered discussion with a log and timber frame builder from Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, and once the funds are secured, they plan to start construction immediately.

“We hope to have a ribbon-cutting on Labor Day,” he added.

Private versus civic competition came into question again during the regular council meeting following the special town meeting when residents requested municipal assistance in placing U.S. flags on every light pole in the downtown area.

“I’ve had people who drive through Patton and Masardis where there are flags on every post ask me why we don’t have them in Fort Kent,” said Phil Soucy, the leader of a citizens group supporting a flag project.

Soucy said his group intend to coordinate with area veterans groups to raise funds and purchase the flags and necessary hardware.

However, local Boy Scouts organizers were concerned as placing flags at area businesses on legal holidays is among the Scouts’ top annual fundraisers.

“If a business is going to have a flag placed for free outside his shop, there is no way the owners will purchase one from the Scouts,” one resident said. “This could really hurt our fundraising.”

Before any flags are purchased or placed around town, Soucy said, he will meet with representatives from the Boy Scouts, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars to discuss the citizens initiative further.

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