Orono Town Councilors sit behind a closed door to the council chambers, July 14, 2021. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

Orono town councilors have given the go-ahead for a concrete or granite base to be installed in a town park before winter. The thing is, they don’t know what will be installed on top of it.

All they know is that the installation in Webster Park by the Stillwater River is part of what’s being billed as an economic development project between Orono and the University of Maine. It will be a demonstration product for a UMaine spinoff project, according to the limited information the Town Council has received.

During a meeting of the council’s community development committee on Monday, economic development director Mitch Stone gave all the details he could about the project. But the specific details are scant and protected by a non-disclosure agreement barring both parties from disclosing any information publicly. 

What Stone could say is that he and others from the town government have been working with UMaine on the project since January 2020 and that it is “an interactive, educational art installation.” 

“It’s a pretty cool thing, I wish I could tell you more publicly,” Stone told councilors. “What’s exciting about it is that it’s going to be a way to showcase the opportunities, relationships and partnerships that we can build with the university. I wish I could just tell you.” 

Stone and the university are working to develop more specific materials about the project for the council. But right now the challenge is getting the foundation of the installation in the ground before it freezes, he said. 

To do that, the university is asking the town to install the foundation in the park, even though councilors can’t yet know what exactly the project is.

Councilors probed Stone as much as they could on Monday, but he reiterated there’s not much he can disclose. 

“It’s not something that can be put in a corner. It has some environmental considerations for it to be interactive,” Stone said. “But it won’t take up precious flat space in the park.” 

Council President Tom Perry clarified that even though the council is approving the installation of the base, it will still need to approve the rest of the project later.

“When does council get an opportunity to just make a wild decision like this?” Councilor Meghan Gardner said. “I’m actually kind of thrilled by it.”

With the council’s approval, Stone can move forward with scheduling the installation of the base.

University officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...