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Maine Town OKs Plan to Redevelop Park; New Public Safety HQ to Go Up in Machias

Mon March 18, 2024 - Northeast Edition
Mainebiz & Maine Monitor

The Fairfield, Maine, town council has approved a plan to develop a 5.5-acre park east of the downtown area, with a goal of attracting tourists, residents and local visitors, Mainebiz reported March 8.

The 80-page Mill Island Park Development Plan provides strategies for future development within the park and along its eastern and western waterfronts on the Kennebec River.

"We are excited about the positive impact this plan will have on Fairfield's waterfront, and we look forward to seeing the vision come to life," said Stephanie Thibodeau, chair of Fairfield's economic and community development committee and a member of the council.

The town began looking for feedback on the proposed redevelopment of areas in early 2023.

Fairfield, a Somerset County town of 6,500 northwest of Waterville, was specifically interested in the redevelopment of Mill Island Park, which has remnants of the old United Boxboard and Paper Co., on the northern end of Mill Island on the river. The park is owned and maintained by the town of Fairfield.

"Mill Island Park's unique geography, combined with its rich history as a manufacturing and industrial site, highlights the town of Fairfield's recreational, historical and educational assets, in addition to its expansive waterfront," Michelle Flewelling, Fairfield's town manager, told Mainebiz at the time.

Now with the proposal in hand, the town may implement strategies such as expanding a regional hub-and-spoke trail system, enhancing downtown connection opportunities, preserving historical infrastructure, addressing parking and traffic concerns, and incorporating sustainable maintenance practices along the waterfronts.

The plan took shape after a multi-year strategic process facilitated by the committee. The process focused on Mill Island Park's recreational, historical and educational needs while emphasizing preservation and restoration.

The proposal also aligns with the town's broader goal of fostering growth in Fairfield's downtown corridor, said Garvan Donegan, the director of planning, innovation and economic development for the Central Maine Growth Council.

The goal, he added, is "a more vibrant and economically thriving Fairfield."

According to Fairfield Town Manager Michelle Flewelling, "This collaborative effort stands as a testament to the strength of our community spirit and the shared vision we have for a downtown corridor that is both revitalized and thriving."

Washington County to Build New Public Safety HQ

Construction of a new public safety building for Washington County is slated to begin this spring in Machias, Maine.

The structure will be built on the site where the former district attorney's office once stood.

According to the Maine Monitor, the $5.5 million facility will provide modern efficiencies and extra space as well as marking a positive step forward for an already stressed Washington County Sheriff's office. Additionally, the building also will house staff from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

"This new facility will have an impact on today's needs and is a good step for the county," explained Washington County Commission Chair Chris Gardner. "But we need to keep in mind that the money used to build this is that of ARPA COVID relief funds, so in our mind this is generational money that our grandkids will have to pay back, and it's money that should be spent on infrastructure."

Gardner said the building will modernize the footprint of the sheriff's department, ultimately benefiting all county taxpayers, while lowering the county's operational costs in the future.

"Is it enough? No. But it provides a place mark for us to develop strategies to move the county forward," he added.

Built in 1858, the current Washington County Sheriff's Department building sits next to the 1853 county courthouse on Court Street in Machias. Inside the sheriff's office is a maze of hallways and cramped office space, surrounded by computer equipment, files and desks, the Monitor noted.

The new 40-ft. by 90-ft. two-story public safety building, which includes a full basement, will provide much needed relief from the department's cramped quarters.

Demolition of the district attorney's offices was completed by J&J Construction of Jonesboro, and the new facility — designed by Port City Architecture — will be constructed by Fairfield-based Sheridan Construction.

Plans call for the new public safety department to be occupied by the fall of this year.

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