Lack of funding could mean end of Washington County Development Authority

Posted March 10, 2012, at 12:53 p.m.
Last modified March 11, 2012, at 5:27 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — Now what?

That’s the question confronting those who oversee the Washington County Development Authority, which was created years ago by the Legislature to determine how best to repurpose the U.S. Navy base within the Washington County community of Cutler.

That project is a done deal, with most of the Navy housing being sold off as vacation condos. Beyond that project, the authority subsequently helped to grease the wheels for the successful launch of a telecommunications firm, a sea salt operation and a construction business. Now the agency is more or less out of money, with about $10,000 in the bank and few prospects for future funding.

“I don’t know that it’s over, but we haven’t received any funding for quite some time,” said Harold Prescott, who is chairman of the authority’s board of directors.

Prescott sees the economic development entity as an asset to Washington County, but he isn’t optimistic about future funding.

“I honestly can’t see us getting anywhere from here,” he said Friday.

Washington County Manager Betsy Fitzgerald has been tasked, in effect, to go door-to-door to local banks to solicit cash support that would keep the authority’s nose above water. The first of those cold calls is scheduled for this week.

“We are in a bit of an identity crisis,” Fitzgerald said Friday. “We haven’t had a project to work on for some time. We’re now involved in an effort to acquire some capital so that we are in a position to help new businesses establish themselves in Washington County.”

The future of the authority will be on the agenda of a meeting on Tuesday, Fitzgerald said.

“I don’t want to be negative, but, if there are other groups that can be advocates for new business here, I’m not sure there’s a role for the Development Authority,” she said.

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