February 24, 2019
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Grants going to smallest of Brownville businesses damaged by June floods

BROWNVILLE, Maine — With the last of the damage from the devastating June flooding repaired and a $34,500 federal grant headed his way, all Town Manager Matthew Pineo has left to worry about are the fish, he said Tuesday.

Joe’s Repair Shop and Simple Sacks on Route 11 and Sebec Village Marine on Sebec Village Road will receive the Community Development Block Grant money by mid-November, Pineo said.

Joe’s will get $25,000; Simple Sacks, $3,500; and Sebec Village will receive $6,000 to pay for damage done by a stalled line of thunderstorms that dumped 6-8 inches of rain on a 3½-mile-wide area of Brownville within four hours on June 23-24.

“We came a long ways,” Pineo said Tuesday. “The team here worked tirelessly to get everything done. The municipalities that came to help initially put us in a great place but throughout the summer we had to do a lot of culvert replacement and other work” to recover from the storm.

The current of water the storm created overwhelmed the town’s flood defenses, wiping out roads and railroad tracks in Brownville crucial to industry. It also contributed to the death of a Milo man on June 24. The Penobscot County town of Patten also was severely hit by the storm. Some total damage estimates ran as high as $4 million.

Deborah Johnson of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development helped process the town’s application for the grant money with CDBG official Terry Ann Holden in Augusta. Kenneth Woodbury of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council helped with the grant applications.

“He knew exactly what to write,” Pineo said.

Joe’s manager, Mike Washburn, was grateful that his business will get the grant. The shop’s foundation, driveway, parking lot and several pieces of equipment — including computers and used chainsaws — were destroyed or damaged by the torrent of water.

“That should cover everything quite well. We should be able to get everything back in order,” Washburn said. If they didn’t get the grant, he and his father, business owner Joe Washburn, would be “scraping and scratching” to find a way to pay the contractors who repaired the business, Washburn said.

All of the contractors were sympathetic and most did what they could to help the business, usually by allowing Joe’s Repair time to pay its bills, Washburn said.

In announcing the grant approval on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, complimented state leaders for helping repair the damage. Gov. Paul LePage toured the area within a few days of the storm and Maine Emergency Management Agency and Maine Department of Transportation officials were on-site the morning of June 25, with rain still falling.

“The storm caused tremendous damage for transportation infrastructure, homeowners, and a number of small businesses in the region, which is precisely why I sent members of my Small Business Committee staff to the Brownville region shortly after the storm to speak with local business owners and residents impacted by the flooding,” said Snowe, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, in her statement.

The three businesses qualified for the grants as microenterprises with less than five employees and owners who do not earn more than $30,000 annually, Pineo said.

Voters unanimously supported the grant application at a town meeting on Sept. 17, Pineo said.

Department of Transportation workers finished the last of their repairs on Sept. 4. Town leaders expect a paving bill of about $6,000 from MDOT for the town roads workers paved, Pineo said. That money was already budgeted in the town’s paving account as part of the 2012-13 budget.

The storm’s damage to the town was estimated at more than $259,000, but in cash cost the town about $50,000. Donations of workers and equipment from Ellsworth, Hampden, Millinocket, Old Town and Orono, plus the town’s use of its own equipment, were among the things that accounted for the savings, Pineo said.

The last bit of remaining work, Pineo said, involves fish — Atlantic salmon that spawn in a creek that is part of the Pleasant River. He is due to meet with state environmental workers on Thursday to verify the presence of the spawning area and salmon before the water can be cleaned and bank repair work finished, he said.

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