Media Archive

Commissioners Vote to Support County Bonding for Economic Development

Article from The Eastern Gazette, Vol. 151, No. 6, February 08, 2003

DOVER-FOXCROFT Citing the recent layoffs of the Dexter Shoe Company and the troubles at Great Northern Paper Company, the Piscataquis County Commissioners voted on February 4 to approve the concept of County borrowing for economic development projects. The '. unanimous vote came during a meeting in which numerous municipal officials testified as to the impact a created job has on the entire county economy. Dover-Foxcroft Selectman Tom Lizotte noted that county commuting patterns clearly show that many people work outside the town in which they reside. "Clearly a job created in one community has both direct and indirect benefits to all Piscataquis County communities. No town is an island unto itself," Lizotte stated'.

Responding to Commissioner Ruel Cross' question about the process of bonding, Lizotte noted that the Maine Legislature would need to approve the process and that the any borrowing efforts would entail approval of the County Commissioners followed by a county-wide referendum. "It was important to us that the bonding process have strong checks and I balances and that the public be extensively involved," he noted.

Brownville Town Manager Sophia Wilson said that although her community has worked with neighboring Milo on sharing services, economic development projects span the county and multi-municipal arrangements become confusing and unwieldy. "We need to get together as a county and push in the same direction for job creating projects," she concluded.

Greenville Town Manager John Simko agreed, citing the difficulties multi-municipal efforts have faced in the past. "Piscataquis County's population is small and no one community has the resources to tackle economic development alone," Simko stated, "Together, however, we can accomplish a lot."

County Commission Chair Eben DeWitt noted that the County has a good track record on supporting economic development efforts. He added that the Commissioners had originally included funding for a speculative building program but, because of other economic development priorities,those funds were not included. "This mechanism is a good way to fond economic development projects that affect the entire county," DeWitt stated.

The resolution, moved by Commissioner DeWitt and seconded by Commissioner Hartley is included below :
RESOLVE: Supporting Economic Development Efforts of Piscataquis County
WHEREAS, recent closings of the Dexter Shoe Company plants in Milo and Dexter, the recent bankruptcy filing by Bangor and Aroostook Railroad, and the January, 2003 bankruptcy filing and plant closings by Great Northern Paper Company in Millinocket and East Millinocket have resulted in the loss of more than 1,600 jobs in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, many of which had been held by Piscataquis County residents; and
WHEREAS, the adverse economic impact of these plant closings on Piscataquis County as a whole has been abrupt and severe; and
WHEREAS, there is a need to expand and diversify the economy ofPiscataquis County, to compensate for employment opportunities that have been lost due to these plant closings; and
WHEREAS, development of new employment opportunities in any one town ofPiscataquis County provides economic benefits to the county as a whole; and
WHEREAS, the 17,235 residents ofPiscataquis County live in seventeen organized towns and a number of unorganized townships, no one of which is individually large enough to fund the cost or undertake the financial risk of assisting the location or relocation of significant new employers to Piscataquis County; and
WHEREAS, there is a need to fund the cost of local and county-wide economic efforts in Piscataquis County at the county level, in order to pool resources, reduce overall risks, and avoid costly duplication of efforts; and
WHEREAS, under current statutes as now in force, Maine's county governments do not possess direct authority to fund local or county economic development efforts, or to borrow money for that purpose;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT HEREBY RESOLVED THAT:
The undersigned Commissioners ofPiscataquis County, Maine, acting in said capacity, hereby strongly support development and passage of emergency legislation conferring on Piscataquis County the statutory authority to fund local and county-wide economic development efforts, to include bonding authority for that purpose.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT:
The County Clerk is hereby directed to transmit attested copies of this Resolution to the Maine Legislature,
the Governor's office, and to each member of the Piscataquis County legislative delegation, as an expression of the Commissioners' support for such efforts.Adopted: February 4, 2003
Eben G. DeWitt, Chair
Ruel P. Cross, Commissioner
Woodruff e L. Hartley, Jr., Commissioner


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