DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — As part of efforts to redevelop the riverfront at the former Moosehead-Mayo Mill site downtown along the Piscataquis River, the selectmen gave their approval to a Riverfront Redevelopment Municipal Tax Increment Financing district during an Aug. 27 meeting. The TIF will now go out to a vote at a special town meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10, at the Morton Avenue Municipal Building.
“This is something we have talked about for the last year in relation to the Moosehead redevelopment project,” Town Manager Jack Clukey said. “There are a lot [of] moving parts and this is a way to allow the developer to use what they would have paid in tax revenues to go back into the project.”
“The plan that is before you has been reviewed at least four times by the state,” Piscataquis County Economic Development Council Community Development Director Dr. Ken Woodbury Jr. said. “Up to 90 percent of the revenues generated by taxes can go back to the developer and the 10 percent can go back to the town for other improvements.”
The riverfront site is currently being worked on by Arnold Development of Kansas City, Mo., and under the TIF agreement the tax revenues generated by the site upgrades would go back into the property for further improvements.
Woodbury said the TIF, if approved at the town meeting and then OK’d by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, would then be negotiated between town officials and the developer to determine the specifics such as the percentage distribution and length of time — which can be for up to 30 years.
Woodbury said right now the buildings on the riverfront site represent a negative value, with all the costs that would be required for demolition and cleanup. He said the TIF “is a great opportunity for the town, it’s a win-win situation for everyone. The mixed use redevelopment is providing jobs, housing, beautification; that kind of centerpiece of the historic district and downtown will do a lot to attract other businesses.”
Woodbury said nearly 10 companies have signed letters as a part of the process to lease space at the riverfront site, which would bring in over 80 jobs.
Clukey said the TIF would apply only to real estate taxes on the property. The town would still get direct revenue from other sources such as water and sewer bills.
The special town meeting warrant for Sept. 10 includes two other items, one of them concerning refinancing the debt on the wastewater project. “We met at the end of July and we looked at some numbers and how beneficial it would be for us to refinance,” Clukey said. The selectmen gave their approval to the funding package last month and now it will be placed up for a vote by Dover-Foxcroft residents.
By refinancing wastewater project loans through the Maine Municipal Bond Bank, the town could save nearly $10,200 annually. The total estimated savings, due to a 1.25 percent interest rate instead of at least 4.5 percent for fewer years to have to pay off the debt, comes to over $521,000 under the plan.
“There is an article on an amendment to the Shoreland Zoning area,” Clukey said, referring to the last item to be dealt with Sept. 10. He said it pertains to river walks being located within 25 feet of the shoreland, which the town will have at both the Riverfront Redevelopment site and down the river at the former Maine Leathers property.
In other business, town officials met with both Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, Rep. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, to discuss the Communities for Maine’s Future program. CMF was funded by bond approval of Maine voters in June 2010 to cover about $3.5 million in projects across the state, including $400,000 in Dover-Foxcroft for a walk at the riverfront project and for upgrades to Central Hall. The office of Gov. Paul LePage is intending to issue the bonds at a later time, such as 2014 or 2015, which could affect the projects the funding is earmarked for.
“We have heard about that for the last couple of months. The program got frozen in late June-July and since then we have been able to free up a little bit of money for the roof piece at Central Hall,” Clukey said.
“I think it is evident from the TIF we are really interdependent with the state and federal government for all these puzzle pieces of the projects,” Select Vice Chairwoman Cindy Freeman Cyr said.
Thomas said he met with DECD Commissioner George Gervais on the matter. “I thought we had a deal and it should be honored,” Thomas said. He said the office of Gov. LePage indicated the debt service payments for this year were $120 million, but are expected to fall to $98 million next year.
“They are going to postpone those, but the governor promised he would not let them expire,” Sen. Thomas said about the CMF bonds, which would not be released until the debt service is decreased.
“We got enough money to secure the building so it didn’t deteriorate until the money’s released; it should be more than enough to do the roof,” he said about a portion of the funding released to get Central Hall through the upcoming winter.
Rep. Davis said he talked with an aide to Gov. LePage, who indicated he would release a letter that could possibly be used as collateral if town officials choose to do so. Davis said his discussions indicated the full CMF funds would not be released until January 2014 at the earliest or June 2015 at the latest.
In his town manager’s report, Clukey provided updates on a number of different developments across the community.
“We have really gotten into the cleanup phase of the Maine Leathers project. It’s clean, the grass is growing, there’s views of the river, it’s really great,” he said. Clukey added that the site stakeholders have said the property is nicer than they imagined it to be.
The site will need some additional stabilization and planting, and for the time being is closed to the public so the grass can grow to prevent erosion. The contractor will be back in the fall to plant trees and then in the spring to complete any needed restoration work.
Clukey said crews from the Charleston Correctional Facility have been busy with the roof at Central Hall, with the work anticipated to be done in the fall, and will be helping out at the Riverfront Redevelopment site. The workers will be cleaning out trash from the buildings so the cleanup contractors can start their remediation of lead paint and asbestos.
He said the Homecoming committee has met and discussed plans for future celebrations. Homecoming would be celebrated with a beach party and fireworks and other events throughout the day. The committee is looking to have a parade every fifth year to coincide with the town anniversary years, such as the 95th in 2017 and the 100th in 2022.