The Edgecomb fire station is in poor condition and selectmen are actively seeking sources of funds to build a new one. During the regular Monday night board meeting, selectmen discussed the possibility of pursuing a town-wide Tax Increment Financing (TIF) project for generating revenue to build a new fire station.
Selectmen also noted the burden placed on the town by the Edgecomb Development property on Davis Island, which has gone back under receivership and is once again going to auction.
The town of Edgecomb approved spending $5000 to shore up the fire station roof, which town officials feared would cave in under weight of snow last year.
“It was a temporary fix,” selectman Stuart Smith said. “It’s in pretty hard shape.”
He said an engineer who inspected the fire station determined the roof would not have been able to handle heavy snow loads. Possible damage from a roof cave-in would have placed an immense financial burden on the town. Smith said the fire department has roughly $1 million worth of equipment in the building that would be difficult to replace.
Selectmen want a new fire station project that would be mil rate neutral, Smith said, but state funding cuts are creating significant difficulty for towns seeking funds. Town officials are hoping to reduce impacts to taxpayers while maintaining necessary services.
“Somewhere else in the town is going to suffer because of what the state’s doing to us,” Smith said.
The state is cutting back on education funding, the costs of which Smith said the town will make up. In recent meetings, Smith said the roads might not be attended to as much as in the past, in light of the state and town financial situation.
He does not expect grant funding to come into the state of Maine this year and anticipates the discussion about funding the fire station project would come up in some form at or before town meeting in May.
Selectmen have agreed people in town support rebuilding the fire station, but the task before them is finding a source of funding and how to accomplish the goal. One option would be to use volunteer work and supplies as part of the project in order to save the town some money. Selectmen have often referred to the building of the Edgecomb Eddy School as an example. They said the town pulled together to bring the building of the school to fruition.
Selectmen discussed the TIF project used in the town of Casco, where their fire station and public safety department secured over $1 million for upgrades.
“The town manager and fire chief (of Casco) were very helpful,” Selectman Jack Sarmanian said.
He said the TIF district was town-wide and implemented for the construction of a natural gas pipeline project. The pipeline had a certain distance, but the TIF was extended to cover the entire community, including public safety.
As described in the manual created by the Maine Dept. of Economic and Community Development, TIF is a tool municipalities can use to fund local projects by using all or a portion of new property taxes from a capital investment. Towns use future increased tax revenue to repay loans used to finance a project. This method of financing is a tool used by towns to generate development growth in certain areas.
“It’s basically an exploration,” Sarmanian said, adding he and the two other selectmen are looking into the possibilities. “It (the TIF) might not be applicable to us, (but) we’re exploring it.”
According to selectman Sarmanian, the first auction was illegal, because it was advertised in an out of county newspaper and should have been advertised in a local newspaper. The property is back under court-appointed receivership with Priority Group, LLC.
Board members said the situation the property is in and the debts owed put a hardship on the town. There are still a number of outstanding liens on the property and tax money is still owed to the town.
“It holds up everything else,” Sarmanian said. “It has a major impact on the town of Edgecomb.”