May 21, 2018
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Orono Village Association to brighten buildings downtown

By Jessica Bloch, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Not everyone has been a fan of the colorful paint job on some downtown buildings facing Main Street, but the colors are undeniably cheery. Expect more painted buildings as the Orono Village Association proceeds with plans to spruce up and market the town’s business area.

OVA co-chair Michele Goldman of Fiberphilia yarn shop on Mill Street laid out the association’s plans for the coming year to the Town Council earlier this week. Those plans include more efforts to spruce up downtown and collaborate with the University of Maine on other projects.

“We’re going to complete our painting project, which some people like and some people don’t like, but everyone would have to agree it has drawn quite a bit of attention, specifically in the winter months,” Goldman said.

OVA intends to provide $5,000 for a free downtown shuttle, which is slated to start in the fall and travel a loop from downtown to the UMaine campus. The intent of the shuttle is both to bring people downtown during business hours and also discourage UMaine students and employees from driving to campus. The association tends to make the donation every year of the shuttle’s three-year trial period.

Goldman said OVA also plans to purchase snow removal equipment and hire people to clear downtown sidewalks in the winter. In addition, the association plans to partner with private businesses to do snow removal in some of the private parking lots downtown.

“OVA is trying to negotiate that among the various business owners, just to make it easier for customers and people to come downtown,” she said.

Increased collaborations with UMaine also will begin in the coming months. Goldman said a UMaine new media professor has agreed make the association’s new Web site a class project in the coming academic year.

UMaine also is helping OVA with the design and purchase of banners for some of the light poles in the downtown area and across the bridge to Marsh Island.

Goldman said OVA’s budget is $12,000-$13,000 per year, including a business and residential tax of 50 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value in a village tax district.

Roberta Bradson, who owns The Store Ampersand on Mill Street and lives on Summer Street, which are within the tax district, said she appreciates what OVA does for her business, but believes residents do not receive the same benefits.

“Not one of those things have benefited me whatsoever or any of the 20 or so residents that just live there,” she told the council. “What I would like to see happen is, you either make the whole town of Orono pay a premium into the OVA district, or tax the merchants [more].”

Goldman, who lives above her shop, said residents will be able to use the free shuttle around town, and OVA has participated in funding for the new town library and contributed to the cost of the design of a proposed downtown trail loop and park.

Although there is no proposal to increase the tax, a townwide loss of valuation for the coming fiscal year will mean a reduction of $652 in funds for OVA.

For more information on OVA or to volunteer to paint, call 866-3423

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