Media Archive

Potato farm eyed for eastern Piscataquis industrial park

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 166, No. 10, March 10, 2004

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

MILO The group seeking to construct an industrial park in eastern Piscataquis County has signed a $250,000 purchase option agreement on a 155-acre site in Milo on Route 11.

The announcement came the morning after Milo voters approved at the annual town meeting the placement of $25,000 in a reserve account to leverage the $1.1 million project, expected to be built with federal and state funds.

Brownville voters will consider a similar warrant article at their town meeting, set for 7 p.m. Monday, March 15.

According to Milo Town Manager Jane Jones, the Eastern Piscataquis Economic Development Committee is eyeing the former Dorman farm, located across the street from JSI Store Fixtures, as the ideal site for the proposed development.

"We're really excited about it," she said Tuesday morning. "[The site] is close to ideal."

Jones said the economic development committee started looking at 10 to 15 sites in the Milo-Brownville area, eventually narrowing the search down to about three parcels. The Dorman property - formerly a potato farm - stood out, Jones explained, due to its prime Route 11 location, surrounded by business development, and accessible to all major utilities. It is owned by Brent Dorman of Stetson.

"It has everything on site, with the exception of sewage which could be easily upgraded," said Jones.

The site is located within a half-mile to the closest sewer main, Jones said, and would be accessible to a recently-upgraded Milo Water District main, high-speed Internet and power.

The purchase option agreement expires Dec. 31, 2004.

Whether the deal is closed depends in large part on the results of several studies, including engineer work, the town manager said. The committee has not contracted with any engineering firms to date for the project.

"We need to get engineers on the land to lay out the $1.1 million project," Jones said. "I don't expect any showstoppers, but we need to plan this with care and precision."

She said the time frame should be adequate to complete prepwork on the site, as well as to determine
whether federal and state funding would be forthcoming.

The committee, working with the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, is seeking a $500,000 appropriation from the U.S. Congress, $280,000 from the Federal Department of Transporation, $400,000 from the state's Community Development Block Grant program, along with miscellaneous rural development grants to fund the industrial park's construction.

Tenants will be eligible to participate in the Penquis Pine Tree Development Zone, providing a tax relief incentive for businesses that lease or purchase property in the park.

Milo Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, following the town meeting, approved of a 65/35 cost- and revenue-sharing arrangement that would be offered to Brownville, if that town's voters agree to proceed with the project. Under the arrangement, the town of Milo would put in 65 percent of all costs and reap 65 percent of the revenues from the development. Brownville, potentially, would assume 35 percent of the costs and receive 35 percent of the revenues.

Brownville Town Manager Sophie Wilson said Brownville Selectmen would consider a similar agreement after Monday's annual town meeting, depending on the result of the town's vote.

She said the industrial park has the potential to greatly benefit the town.

"We've lost some opportunities to attract business here simply because there were no available buildings or
pre-permitted land set to build on," Wilson said. "The industrial park would make our region more competitive for future business growth and the creation of new jobs. It's really important that we take the time and money now to put us in a position to be competitive, or else we'll continue to see the mass exodus of working people from Piscataquis County.

Jones said that if Brownville voters do not approve the setting aside of $25,000 for the park at the town meeting, Milo will continue to move ahead with the project. With or without Brownville, the committee will approach other towns in the vicinity as potential partners, including the towns of LaGrange and Atkinson and the Piscataquis County Commissioners on behalf of the unorganized township of Orneville.

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