MILO, Maine — Four years after an arson fire hit downtown Milo, a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 27 started the building process for the Heritage Building.
“With this shovelful of dirt, ground has been broken and the project has started,” Town Manager David Maynard said as selectmen and representatives of the contractor, engineering firm and U.S. Department of Agriculture took part in the ceremonial shoveling.
“As you all know, the lot burned a few years ago,” Maynard said beforehand during the contract signing just up the street at the town hall.
In mid-September 2008, an arson fire destroyed the lower block of the downtown. In the ensuing years, town officials and the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council have worked with both the state and federal governments to bring funds to Milo for cleanup and rebuilding.
“This has been a long, difficult process to where we have gotten to the contract signing and groundbreaking,” Maynard said. “Elaine Poulin of Elaine’s Basket Cafe will be the prime tenant for the building.”
The structure to be built on the site of what was a hardware store before the fire four years ago is being financed through a $500,000 USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant. Grant monies were used for the property purchase, and the bid for the construction was awarded last month to S.J. Wood of Winthrop for $378,408. Eighteen hundred square feet of the town-owned building will be leased to Poulin to operate a wholesale bakery business.
Maynard explained that part of the building, about 1,500 square feet, will not be finished on the interior.
He said a second tenant looked into using the space but will not be pursuing the possibility. Instead, the town will be able to rent the space at a later time to a client who can build it to specifications. Alternatively, Milo could apply for a Community Development Block Grant to build the space to the specifications of a lessee.
Construction began on Monday, Oct. 1, and Maynard said the work should be finished by the end of December.
He thanked town office staff members Robin Larson, Betty Gormley and Cheryl Gormley.
“I know they jumped through hoops at times to get this project going,” he said.