$500,000 grant to redevelop burned Milo downtown formally approved

Posted July 30, 2012, at 12:02 p.m.

MILO, Maine — Following an arson fire on West Main Street in September 2008, the town of Milo was awarded a $500,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to construct a building to redevelop the site of the blaze.

“A few months ago we were under the impression that this approval had gone to the citizens,” interim Town Manager Roger Raymond said during a July 17 special town meeting.

“The problem is neither I nor the town clerk can find that vote,” he said, noting that all of the town records were checked to no avail. “It’s my job to make sure the community follows the rules it’s supposed to, so we don’t run into any problems. Currently, the building plans are all done. The project can go out to bid within the next few weeks.”

Raymond said legal counsel advised that “we need approval of the citizens and that’s why we are asking your permission tonight.” He also said that per the Milo charter, a grant would have to accepted at a town meeting and not simply by a selectmen’s vote.

Responding to a question from the audience, Raymond said about $125,000 already “has been expended for the purpose of marketing, the design of the property and the building,” and legal and surveying work.

Raymond said if those in attendance at the meeting voted down the grant, “the requirement is these dollars would have to be returned to the federal agency.”

Via a written ballot, those at the meeting accepted the grant by a 35-18 vote.

During a selectmen’s meeting after the vote, Raymond provided an update on a plan to pay for damage caused by the previous month’s flooding. Saying the damage totals would not be covered by federal or emergency aid, Raymond said, “It wasn’t as much as we thought. What we would like to do is absorb these costs within the highway budget.”

He said the majority of the water damage in town occurred to the Lake View Road, an estimated $15,000. Raymond said using this amount from the highway budget would prevent the funds from being expended on paving elsewhere in town but would be “the only way I see we can absorb that cost without creating an overdraft on that account.”

As part of the certification process for the Maine Department of Transportation’s Urban Rural Initiative Program, Milo receives money from the state agency for its roads on an annual basis. The selectmen voted to sign the 2012-13 certification and in doing so will receive more than $39,000.

“We need to apply these dollars on local roads,” Raymond said, mentioning Lake View Road and High Street as possibilities to help fix the travel ways after the flooding.

Raymond shared a letter from Brownville Police Chief Nick Clukey thanking the Milo police and fire departments for their assistance during the heavy rainfall in late June.

Raymond also said the town needs to form a Community Development Block Grant advisory committee for Elaine’s Basket Cafe and Gift Shop, which will be a tenant of the soon-to-be constructed Heritage Building on West Main Street. “It’s required by CDBG rules,” he said. “They would be looking at, for instance, the list of equipment bought and making sure we are following the rules of the program.”

“The committee’s strictly advisory,” Raymond said. The half-dozen candidates, who will be contacted to see whether they wish to serve, will not have legislative authority, he said.

Raymond presented the board with a letter from Police Chief Damien Pickel, who he said is “showing concerns of the use of fireworks in the community.” Pickel wrote that the department has been receiving a number of fireworks-related complaints and is looking to see whether the town can adopt an ordinance concerning fireworks.

“Let us come back to you with an ordinance that reflects the level of concern our citizens have had,” Raymond told the board. He said he will meet with fire department officials and Pickel to devise a fireworks ordinance that could establish some safety parameters and times when fireworks could be used in town.

On another matter, the town manager said the backside of a home at 22 Pleasant St. is caving in and may have to be addressed by the town. Raymond said the code enforcement office sent the property owner a pair of letters by certified mail about the situation, but they were returned.

“The building continues to be dangerous, and there is state statute allowing the board to deal with a dangerous building,” Raymond said. He said a public hearing would help the selectmen make a decision on the building. If the owner does not cooperate to remedy the situation, the town can go through the court system to get a special assessment to be paid on the property or end up acquiring the parcel.

“You need to make sure you can sell the property for all of the expenses,” which could include costs involving asbestos and the removal of the structure. He said he would check with legal counsel and bring forward a recommendation at a future meeting if the current situation does not change.

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