Media Archive

Development bond votes unlikely in Piscataquis

Article from Bangor Daily News, Wednesday, August 20, 2003

By Diana Bowley
of the NEWS Staff

Officials: Project requests to be made next year

DOVER-FOXCROFT - The earliest Piscataquis County residents could see a county bond issue for local economic development projects would be next year, county officials were told Tuesday. Special legislation championed by town and county officials and enacted earlier this year gives Piscataquis County commissioners authority to put local bond referendum questions for economic development projects to voters for approval. No other county in the state now has that authority.

Municipal and county officials are ignoring boundary lines that separate one community from another and are seeking solutions together to stop the out-migration of residents for lack of quality jobs. They have embraced the idea that a job created in one town will help every other town in Piscataquis County. But to get those jobs they recognize they must take innovative steps to compete with larger cities and wealthier regions.

"This is something very unique," said Greenville Town Manager John Simko. "We bring something else to the table with this bonding." The funds can help the county become more competitive in business development since it brings "one more tool to the toolbox."

Mark Scarano, executive director of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council and the Piscataquis County Properties Corp., said no request will be made for a referendum vote this year while an inventory is being conducted of available properties and project needs

"We expect to see many properties being developed through this bonding mechanism," Scarano said Tuesday.

Under the legislation sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, the bond funds can be used to develop sites for new or expanding manufacturing, commercial or other business ventures within the county boundaries.

In addition, the funds can help with the construction or redevelopment of publicly owned industrial buildings, former schools, and facilities for passenger and cargo transportation, and can serve as leverage for matching state and federal grants.

Attorney Eric Stumpfel, who is assisting the corporation, said it is hard to attract new business if there are no available pre-permitted sites. The bond funds, if approved, would allow more development, and the risks would be shared. If a single town raised a local match for a project and the project failed, the town would bear the brunt.

Under the bond project, however, the risk is shared on a countywide basis. One-third of the debt service on any bond issue would be funded by the unorganized townships.

Scarano said the framers of the bond legislation expected almost all of the requested referendum funds would be for the local match required for state and federal grants.

Any community in the county can have a project considered for the referendum, he noted.

Milo Town Manager Jane Jones expects a variety of projects to be considered from throughout the county. Some local nuances to what Milo and Brownville are dealing with are not necessarily mirrored in the Dover-Foxcroft or Greenville areas, she said. Different areas of the county are in different development stages, she said.

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