Bucksport seeks grant for downtown improvements

Posted June 24, 2011, at 7:55 p.m.

BUCKSPORT, Maine — Town councilors on Thursday authorized the town’s application for state grant funding to continue improvements to the downtown area.

The town has proposed projects totaling $576,000 for the downtown area to be funded through town, private and state grant funds. The grant application seeks $259,400 from the Maine Futures Bond Program.

Town Manager Roger Raymond explained that the town had made changes to the application in an effort to make it more competitive in the grant process. He said the town reduced the total amount requested and increased the amount of the town’s share in matching funds. The total amount requested, Raymond said, is $50,000 less than the amount included in the town’s initial letter of intent.

Raymond said he expected the grant process to be very competitive, with 36 municipalities seeking funding from the total program amount of $3 million. The changes in the application will improve the town’s chances of winning funding, he said.

“We’ve increased the local match and maxed all the points we can get [in the grant scoring process],” he said.

The town’s share of the project is $268,573, which includes funds for the purchase of the Nason building just off Main Street. The town plans to remove the building to provide additional downtown parking. Private funding, for which the town already has received letters of commitment, will total $156,565. Included in the private and public matching funds are in-kind contributions for work that already has been done — worth more than $108,000 — and is not a part of the total project cost, Raymond said.

The bulk of the town’s contributions will come from the town TIF fund.

The grant would help fund downtown facade improvements. Although the project would help make improvements to some privately owned buildings, Raymond said the town’s support of those improvements is justified because of the significance of the buildings.

“These buildings are of historic importance,” he said. “They are all significant and serve a purpose to the community.”

Among the buildings targeted for improvements are The Buck Memorial Library, McLeod’s Restaurant, The Alamo Theater, the Bucksport Historical Society and the Verona Grange. All of the buildings are located along Main Street.

Other projects included in the grant request are the addition of connector walkways from the waterfront walk to Main Street and improvements at the western end of the walk near the Webber dock.

Members of the town’s economic development committee urged the councilors to authorize the grant application. Lisa Whitney noted that over the years, the town has worked hard to get “the most bang for its buck” when seeking grant funding. The funds being sought will help to finish some downtown projects, she said.

Committee member Cathy Hamburger added her support noting that the proposed projects would help to present a refreshing appearance to motorists coming across the bridge.

“It will entice them to make the left-hand turn [into the downtown area], which we’ve been trying to encourage them to do all these years,” she said.

Councilors authorized the submission of the grant application, which is due on July 1.

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