SKOWHEGAN, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage announced Friday that he has signed a memorandum to State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin committing to issue bond funds of $375,300 to Skowhegan on or before June 20, 2015.
State Sen. Rodney Whittemore, R-Skowhegan, and Donald Skillings, chairman of Skowhegan’s planning board, worked with the governor to secure the memo, which is similar to the one issued to Livermore Falls and Norway, according to a release by the Maine State Republicans.
“We both felt it was necessary to reach out to the governor on his terms,” said Whittemore in a statement. “The governor is looking out for state finances and that should be important to all Mainers, but the governor also recognizes the importance of getting some of these local projects off the ground. Donald and I were not interested in political gamesmanship with the governor, that is why we quietly sought a meeting, and I think the results speak for themselves.”
In May, LePage said he would not issue voter-approved bonds until state spending was under control. The $3.5 million Communities for Maine’s Future grants bond was passed by the Legislature in 2009 and approved by voters in 2010. Skowhegan was one of 11 communities designated to receive funds from the bond for downtown revitalization projects.
State Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, sent letters to LePage, asking him to release the voter-approved bond money.
“The governor has finally taken a small step toward helping the businesses and people of Skowhegan, who were stunned by his decision to withhold the voter-approved bonds in the first place,” said McCabe. “He’s now promised to cut a check in three years for a bill that’s come past due. I’m glad my letters bringing attention to this issue were able to help secure a promise of payment even if it is for three years from now after the governor’s term has expired. At the end of the day, I want to see jobs for area contractors and we want to encourage people to support downtown Skowhegan.”
Adrienne Bennett, press secretary to LePage, said Whittemore’s approach of talking directly to LePage, and not through the media, was more impactful.
“What you have are some politicians are seeking out real solutions, while others are seeking political points,” said Bennett on Friday.
Bennett said the memo doesn’t stray from the governor’s position that municipalities should seek their own gap financing for projects.
“He has been very consistent with his message, that we need to be fiscally responsible,” said Bennett. “We’re not going to issue bonds until our spending is under control.
“It’s encouraging that town officials are starting to think outside the box, and not just going to the state [for funding],” Bennett continued. “We certainly aren’t looking to hinder job growth or economic development. Those are good things for the state, and the governor supports them.”
Three towns — Dover-Foxcroft, Eastport and Monmouth — received Community Development Block Grant funding because they fit CDBG guidelines and were completed or “well under way,” according to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development spokesman Doug Ray.
In his July 20 statement, McCabe said other towns that were denied voter-approved bonds included: Bath, Belfast, Dover-Foxcroft, Eastport, Livermore Falls, Monmouth, Norway, Rockland, Unity and Winthrop.