Media Archive

Brownville approves park partnership

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 166, No. 43, October 27, 2004

By Fran Emmons
Special to the Observer

BROWNVILLE JCT Brownville residents will become equal partners with neighboring Milo in developing a new business and industrial park to serve the two communities. The vote came after broad discussion at a special town meeting Monday night at the Brownville Alumni Hall in Brownville Jct.

The concept was not new for the more than 80 townspeople who filled the hall to have their say.

Driven by the fact that in recent years the region had to turn away companies interested in locating there because there were no suitable sites, Brownville had joined Milo in the early planning stages for a park, put up $2,500 in early matching funds, put aside $25,000 towards future development of the park, and participated in the site search.

Both communities were scoured for the best location and the "so-called" Dorman farm was identified as a "premier" site. Pressured by purchase option deadlines, Milo officials anted up the $271,000 price tag and closed on the property Oct. 15.

The partnership means Brownville will split that purchase price with Milo, taking on $135,500 in debt.

The move was unanimously recommended by the Brownville Board of Selectmen. Sweetening the deal is the hope that the $952,000 Economic Development Bond proposed by Piscataquis County, the first of its kind ever in the state, will be passed on Nov. 2, because $271,000 of its total is earmarked for this project.

Aware that many of the towns people had concerns, town officials were not sure which way the vote would go despite the fact that the Brownville Board of Selectmen recommended unanimously that voters approve the partnership at the town meeting.

"It's going to cost a lot of money. What is the town of Brownville going to get, can it expect to get out of it?" asked John Leathers as soon as the floor was open for discussion.

One-half ownership in the property, equal representation on the board which would direct the park's growth and development, and 50 percent in the tax revenue derived on property valuation in excess of 250,000, Brownville Town Manager Sophie Wilson replied, adding that the taxes on the first $250,000 of valuation would go to Milo, as the host community, to cover municipal services provided.

In round numbers, for example, if Milo assessed $1,000 in taxes on the first $250,000, it would receive all of the $1,000. If $250,000 in improvements were made to the park, then taxes would increase by $1,000, and $500 would go to Brownville and Milo equally, Wilson explained.

Economic development is never guaranteed, but several factors make officials from both Milo and Brownville believe in their own version of "if you build it they will come." Most concrete is the fact that at least one company that was turned away in recent years landed on its feet in Dover-Foxcroft's industrial park.

The appeal of a designated industrial park is pre-permitted land. According to experts, permitting today between
local, state and federal agencies is a lengthy process that can kill many time-sensitive contracts.

A second fact is that the proposed park has been included in Gov. John Baldacci's Pine Tree Enterprise Zone which offers exceptional incentives for new business locations.

Businesses on the move look for labor first, Piscataquis County Economic Development Corporation (PCEDC)
Executive Director Mark Scarano told the group, and this region not only has the labor force, but is identified with a solid work ethic. Next, they look for a building, and failing that, they look for suitable land. Until now,

Brownville and Milo had neither.

"Can you tell us who the companies are who want to come here?" asked Lorraine Fitzpatrick, adding that the community was pretty conservative and didn't want to risk its life-style.

There are no guarantees, Wilson acknowledged, adding that many inquiries are anonymous or reques t anonymity until a deal is struck. The fact that arrangements to lease a potato barn on the property were made with Milo even before the purchase and Mayo Regional Hospital's announcement that it would build there are encouraging, she pointed out.

The gamble was worth it to others.

"If we don't do this, the town is going to shrivel up and die," Lynn Weston said, adding she was scared to death that the community would not approve the move.

The actual vote was to authorize the Brownville Board of Selectmen to enter into an Interlocal Agreement with Milo, a document which details the partnership for the park. The ballot was written and 42 votes were cast in favor, 34 against.

"I'm happy," Dennis Green, Chairman of the Brownville Selectmen, said, "I'm tired of seeing my grandchildren's taillights going down the road" in search of jobs elsewhere.

"I believe it will be in the best interests of our community have this tool" for economic development, manager Wilson said, adding she was pleased that voters had seriously considered both sides.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.