MACHIAS, Maine — The Washington County Commission approved five applications for tax increment financing loans and grants this week, including the largest allocation to date — $215,000 to launch a chicken processing facility.
In all, the commissioners unanimously approved $270,000 in TIF loans and $62,000 in TIF grants to the five applicants.
The largest award went to Tide Mill Organic Farm in Edmunds, which will receive a $200,000 15-year loan along with a $15,000 grant. The funds will be used to help build and equip a $500,000 plant to process poultry.
It is the biggest loan approved to date under the county’s tax increment financing program for the Unorganized Territory, said Ken Daye, program manager for the Sunrise County Economic Council, which administers the TIF program.
The processing plant will have a slight impact on farm employment, according to Daye, enabling about three to five part-time workers to increase their hours to full-time status.
The commission approved a TIF grant three years ago that enabled the farm to increase poultry production. After also receiving a planning grant to look into a processing facility, the farm owners “found that this could work,” Daye told the commissioners.
The loan will be collateralized by a “hodgepodge” of assets, said Daye, including an investment portfolio.
Commission chairman Chris Gardner expressed concerns about the size of the loan, though it was under the $250,000 limit. “That’s a big chunk,” he said. “Let’s be honest.”
“You know it’s a lot of money,” added Commissioner Vinton Cassidy, but the farm provides a good number of jobs, he noted.
The owners of the farm have shown “they’re not afraid of a day’s work,” said Gardner.
The processing facility is going to be important to the farm going forward, indicated Tide Mill owner Aaron Bell, who attended the meeting with his wife, Carly DelSignore.
“The ability for us to efficiently package poultry” is just as important as raising chickens, said Bell.
The chicken processing plant will be contained in a new 40-by-60-foot building, Daye said Friday. The farm also plans to erect a second structure where it can raise chickens year-round.
The farm produces about 10,000 chickens annually, according to Daye.
“They hope to double that” in coming years, he added.
Construction will start “as soon as possible,” said Daye.
The TIF funding was the last piece of financing needed for the project.
The three commissioners also unanimously approved TIF grants and loans for four other projects even though a committee that reviews the requests recommended denying the loan for one applicant and reducing the grant amount for another.
In briefing the commission on a request by Leslie Robinson to start a business that will provide horse boarding and riding lessons, Daye noted that Robinson has had “serious repayment issues in the past” and expressed concern about outstanding indebtedness. The committee that reviews TIF applications voted 3-2 to deny Robinson the $10,000 loan she sought, according to Daye.
The goal of the TIF program is to help businesses that otherwise may not be able to obtain bank financing, noted Cassidy.
“We don’t want to act like a bank,” said Gardner. “We have to be willing to take a couple of chances.”
The commissioners ended up approving the TIF loan as well as a $10,000 TIF grant for Robinson.
Clyde Brown of Edmonds sought a $15,000 TIF grant and a $15,000 TIF loan to buy a new truck for his tractor service business. The review committee endorsed the loan but recommended reducing the grant amount to $5,000.
“I’ll step out on a limb,” said Commissioner John Crowley, who recommended approval of the full amounts for the loan and grant. Like the other requests, it was approved by a 3-0 vote.
The commission also approved a $7,000 TIF grant for James Robinson, who operates a tractor service in Edmunds, and a $15,000 TIF grant and a $45,000 TIF loan for Michael Griffin to start up a business in Edmunds to supply lobster traps and bait to fishermen.