June 21, 2018
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Four Washington County communities and New Brunswick city explore regional economic development

By Tim Cox, BDN Staff

CALAIS, Maine — A budding regional economic development effort received something of a shot in the arm with interest shown by officials in three more localities — Eastport, which earlier had rebuffed an invitation to participate, Princeton, and St. Stephen, New Brunswick.

Elected officials and staff from five local governments — the other two are Calais and Baileyville — met Thursday night and agreed to form an intermediate group that will draft a proposal for a formal organization that would be tasked with regional economic development.

It was the second meeting since an initial gathering of officials representing Baileyville and Calais in January. At that first meeting, officials from the two communities achieved some consensus on the need for a regional approach to economic development and agreed to plan a second session and invite representatives of Princeton and Eastport.

However, the Eastport City Council discussed the invitation in February and declined to participate. In an email to Calais City Manager Diane Barnes, Eastport City Manager Larry Post noted that Calais has been involved in several initiatives with other communities, such as schools and ambulance service, and later withdrew.

Eastport officials apparently are reconsidering. Post attended the gathering along with Mary Ripole, chairwoman of the City Council, on Thursday night. Ripole did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

In addition to the Eastport delegation, Calais, Baileyville, Princeton, and St. Stephen were represented, according to Baileyville Town Manager Rick Bronson.

After considerable discussion, the group decided to form an intermediate committee that will be tasked with proposing a formal committee structure, said Bronson.

The interim panel will be chaired by Bronson and Barnes and likely include a couple of representatives from each locality, said Bronson.

The group will draft a proposal as to what the formal committee will look like and how many representatives each locality would have.

The proposal eventually would be submitted to each governing body to ask if they are “buying into this committee,” Bronson said.

Bronson hopes the interim panel may meet within 30 days but acknowledged it could be longer.

A number of elected officials expressed urgency about the regional economic development effort, according to Bronson.

Calais and Baileyville officials held a joint meeting about a year ago, Bronson noted, and it has been several months since the most recent meeting in January. Several elected officials voiced the view that they want to “keep the ball rolling,” said Bronson, and move forward without protracted delays.

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