MILO, Maine — A new fitness center, an improved restaurant and gift shop and a few new jobs will be created if the town succeeds in its application for a $60,000 Community Development Block Grant.
The Board of Selectmen agreed during a meeting Tuesday to allow the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council to apply for the grant. Council Community Development Director Kenneth B. Woodbury Jr. told selectmen the grant application would be a crucial part of finishing the redevelopment of the area devastated by an arson fire in September 2008.
The work “will not cost a nickel more than the grant,” Woodbury said during the meeting. “This is to be built without local tax money.”
Under Woodbury’s grant proposal, the $60,000 would buy professional kitchen equipment in a new building for Elaine’s Basket Cafe and Gift Shop on East Main Street in exchange for the restaurant’s commitment to hire two full-time employees, including one earning more than $30,000, for at least two years. The new kitchen would streamline restaurant operations and make room for wholesale food production, Woodbury said.
As part of the revitalization, the 3,300-square-foot building near the intersection of East and West Main, Elm and Water streets would also house a fitness center operated by Charles Lawrence, who owns a convenience store in town, Woodbury said. The fitness center would be about 1,500 square feet.
If Elaine’s owner, Elaine Poulin, fails to meet the conditions of the grant, the town would have to pay it back, Woodbury said.
Several of the nearly 70 residents who attended the meeting didn’t seem to like tax money being used to support local businesses. One resident said the town would be better off with an assisted living center.
Selectmen seemed satisfied with Woodbury’s presentation.
The town still has to use the bulk of the $500,000 rural business development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development agency that will help revitalize an area of downtown destroyed by arson in 2008, Woodbury said. Five downtown buildings were destroyed and a sixth damaged in the fire.
About 90 residents voted a special town meeting in January 2010 to buy much of the area destroyed by the fire at a price not to exceed $10,000 and a parcel owned by John and Barbara Crossman at a price not to exceed $48,200.
Since then the money has sat largely untouched. New lamp posts and sidewalks are supposed to be installed, and the intersection reworked, as part of the revitalization, Woodbury said. Some of that work will begin later this year.