AUGUSTA, Maine — Town officials from Milo were honored Friday for their efforts to rebuild their town, much of which went up in smoke two years ago in a devastating fire.
Though the town’s rebound will take years, if not decades, the foundation has been set to make Milo better than it ever was, according to the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development, which honored the town Friday with one of its highest annual honors, the Community Project of the Year Award.
“The citizens of Milo have really pulled together,” said Michael Baran, director of DECD’s Office of Community Development. “They’re the ones who had to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.”
In addition to determination at the local level, the town benefited from the DECD’s community development block grant funding. That money has been used to restore portions of the Old Milo Baptist Church, rehabilitate the downtown Veteran’s Park and institute a grant program for downtown facade improvements. The town is also in the planning stages of redesigning the landscape of downtown streets and has used CDBG funds to purchase and clear burned-out buildings, making way for future redevelopment.
In the coming months, the town will work with the Maine Department of Transportation to reconfigure some intersections to emphasize the town’s picturesque proximity to the Sebec River.
“When it’s complete, Milo will have a very warm, welcoming and beautiful downtown,” said Terry Stevens, the development program manager for the DECD’s Office of Community Development.
Milo Town Manager Jeff Gahagan said receiving the award was a proud moment for the town, and an affirmation of the critical role the CDBG program has played in the reconstruction.
“We’re pretty proud of this award,” Gahagan said during Friday’s ceremony, which was held at the American Legion Post 2 in Augusta. “After we dusted off the ashes, we all got to work. We’re starting to make our way back.”
Milo’s award was presented Friday during a CDBG appreciation day, which was attended by dozens of town officials from throughout Maine. The program awarded approximately $13.8 million to Maine communities in 2010, according to a press release, marking the busiest two-year period in the program’s history.
Other award recipients included the town of Skowhegan, given the Community Spirit Award for its efforts at downtown revitalization; Judy East, director of the Washington County Council of Governments, given the Administrator of the Year Award; and Richard Hatin, director of the federal department of Housing and Urban Development’s office in Manchester, N.H, given a Lifetime Achievement Award.
“These people represent the essence of planned local development and work diligently to build better communities and improve the lives of all Mainers,” said Baran.