Milo IGA faces possible eviction

Posted Nov. 20, 2010, at 6:31 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:37 a.m.

MILO, Maine — The Milo Farmers Union, the town’s oldest business, could be evicted.

The Claude N. Trask Agency Inc. of Milo, which owns the building in which the farmers union operates an IGA grocery store, has filed a forcible entry and detainer complaint that will be heard Dec. 2 in Piscataquis County District Court in Dover-Foxcroft.

The farmers union does not have a lease and has not had one for years, Bangor attorney Brent Slater said Friday on behalf of the Trask Agency. He said an eviction notice has been given to the union and the District Court hearing is the commencement of an action to get a court order compelling the eviction.

“I am optimistic that a writ of possession will be issued,” Slater said. “The fact that it is issued is no guarantee whether or not it will actually be used. There are a number of options available that will go a long way toward satisfying the needs of all parties, including the community.” Those options are under consideration and are being actively pursued by all interested parties, he said.

Eben DeWitt, farmers union president, said this week that the Trask Agency, which owns considerable stock in the union, wants the IGA evicted so that Tradewinds, which operates three supermarkets in the state, can open in that location.

The union’s store, which serves Greater Milo, wants to stay put, DeWitt said. “We’d like to buy the building we’re in and stay where we are,” he said, but discussions in that vein have not been fruitful.

Incorporated in 1917 as part of a nationwide movement called the National Farmers Union with 235 stockholders, the union operated its first store where the Trask Agency is located. It later moved to 2 Park St. and in 1976 moved to 55 Park St. in a building constructed and owned by a Portland developer.

A 20-year lease was signed, which expired in 1996, DeWitt said. That lease had two five-year options that were never executed because an official with the Trask Agency told directors not to worry about it, he claimed.

DeWitt further claimed the developer gave the farmers union first option to purchase the property in 1995 but later sold it to the Trask Agency. Last summer, the Trask Agency offered to buy the union’s inventory, fixtures and equipment for $50,000, but that offer was rejected, DeWitt said. Directors said the price was too low since they spent more than $200,000 upgrading equipment in recent years.

Trask then resigned from the union’s board of directors and as clerk of the corporation, and an eviction notice was served to directors, according to DeWitt. He said directors offered to purchase the building and the Trask Agency’s stock in August but the offer was rejected. It was then that Tradewinds offered to buy out the union’s business, he said. DeWitt said the terms, conditions and price offered by Tradewinds were rejected by the directors, who want to stay in business in the present location.

The farmers union made another written offer to Trask for the purchase of the building about three weeks ago, according to DeWitt.

Telephone calls to Chuck Lawrence, a Tradewinds official, were not returned Saturday for comment.

DeWitt said the union has been a good neighbor for years, supporting local organizations and charitable dinners and even donating all of the store’s damaged but unspoiled goods to the local food cupboard.

“You’re talking about thousands of dollars a year,” he said.

Slater said that even if the Trask Agency gets a writ of possession, they don’t have to actually evict the union if something can be worked out that is satisfactory to both parties.

“I do not anticipate getting a writ of possession and showing up there the next day with a moving van,” he said, which is what could happen if no agreement is reached and the property owner elected to do that.

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