Milbridge construction projects defy a sour regional economy

Posted Sept. 21, 2012, at 2:17 p.m.
James Openshaw of Milbridge took advantage Friday of a streak of good weather that has allowed accelerated construction of a new 6,000-square-foot home for Noel Marine Supplies & Firearms on Route 1 in Milbridge. The project has provided work for three area contractors, including Openshaw Electric of Milbridge.
Tom Walsh | BDN
James Openshaw of Milbridge took advantage Friday of a streak of good weather that has allowed accelerated construction of a new 6,000-square-foot home for Noel Marine Supplies & Firearms on Route 1 in Milbridge. The project has provided work for three area contractors, including Openshaw Electric of Milbridge. Buy Photo
Noel Marine Supplies & Firearms has been doing business for the past 12 years in an old Milbridge schoolhouse at 409 Wyman Road. By early next year, the business will be relocated to a 6,000-square-foot building now under construction on Route 1 in Milbridge.
Tom Walsh | BDN
Noel Marine Supplies & Firearms has been doing business for the past 12 years in an old Milbridge schoolhouse at 409 Wyman Road. By early next year, the business will be relocated to a 6,000-square-foot building now under construction on Route 1 in Milbridge. Buy Photo

MILBRIDGE, Maine — Despite a local and regional economy that is stagnant at best, the sounds of table saws and nail guns will mark the next few months in the Washington County coastal community of Milbridge.

One Route 1 construction retail project — a new location for a local marine supply company — is nearing completion, while work on a public works project — a new building to house the town’s offices and its library — is expected to begin Oct. 1.

Work is well under way on a 6,000-square-foot building at 183 Main St. that by early next year will be the new home of Noel Marine Supplies & Firearms. For the last 12 years, the company that carries a mix of inventory to meet the needs of commercial fishermen and gun enthusiasts has been doing business out of the old two-room Wyman Schoolhouse at 409 Wyman Road.

“We’ve been outgrowing that building, and we have had to handle all the rope and everything else by hand there,” said Nolan Rossi, who owns the business operated by his daughter, Jolette Rossi-West. “At this new building, we can move everything around with forklifts.”

“We’re just out of room here,” Rossi-West said Friday. “We have some storage out back, but the front room is only 24 by 30 [feet].”

The new store will carry an expanded inventory of firearms and ammunition. “We sell a lot of ammo and have quite a selection, as there aren’t many places around that do,” Rossi-West said.

Work on the building has been moving along at a fast pace over the past few weeks, given a stretch of fair weather. Rossi said he expects work will be completed well before year’s end. “We probably won’t try to move our stock over until things slow down, maybe late December or early January,” he said.

The project has kept Robert Ginn of Steuben busy as its general contractor and has meant much-welcomed work for three local subcontractors.

Rossi said the project is being self-financed. “The banks don’t seem too eager to give up their money,” he said. “They just sit on yours and pay half a percent and call it good.”

Across town, Milbridge Town Manager Lewis Pinkham is eager to see work begin on a new town office, he said Friday. In May voters at a special town meeting approved tearing down the existing town office building and an adjacent meeting hall and replacing them with a new structure that would house the town office, the police department, the public library and the ambulance service.

The town received 12 bids on the project and this week awarded the job to Coastal Builders of Trenton, which submitted a bid of $484,483, which includes the costs of demolition of the meeting hall now located at the building site adjacent to the existing town office and library building. “There was one lower bid, but it didn’t exactly meet the requirements,” Pinkham said.

A separate $27,458 contract was awarded to Mark Wright Construction of Columbia to tear down the existing town office and library structure once the new facility is ready for occupancy. Pinkham said the project has a six-month timeline, but he expects it will be completed sooner.

The project is being funded with the help of a $258,000 Community Development Block Grant provided through the state’s Office of Economic Development. The town is putting up an additional $320,000, with $160,000 coming from a 15-year loan, $65,000 from the library’s endowment fund, $60,000 from surplus funds and $35,000 from a building reserve fund.

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