Bank project remains on hold


OXFORD – Construction of Norway Savings Bank’s education center in the Oxford Hills Business Park on Route 26 remains on hold as officials involved with the project try to mitigate cost overruns.

Brett Doney, president of EnterpriseMaine, said Thursday that bank officials have told him they want to decide by the end of June whether the project will proceed at the business park or go elsewhere in the Oxford Hills region.

“We’ve been working with them and the town (of Oxford) has been working with them to make the project financially feasible,” Doney said.

Bob Harmon, president of Norway Savings, was not available for comment Thursday.

Harmon said last November that he hoped construction of the 27,000-square-foot education center could start in December or January. However, the project has been delayed due to concerns over storm water drainage and cost overruns.

Bank officials have been in discussions with town officials, the Oxford Hills Growth Council, and the state Department of Environmental Protection about the possibility of improving site drainage. A record amount of rainfall last spring highlighted the need for improved storm water drainage.

The project faces between $500,000 and $600,000 in cost overruns to place 4 feet of fill under the structure.

The building would house a fairly large training room for employees as well as bank operations such as deposit and loan processing.

Doney said EnterpriseMaine has offered to spend $140,000 to install a storm water line in the business park that would serve the bank as well as future tenants. “It’s a financial stretch for us but we think it’s well worth it to keep the bank growing,” he said.

In addition, Michael Chammings, Oxford’s town manager, said Thursday he has discussed with bank officials the possibility of offering tax increment financing to the project, but nothing has been finalized.

Doney said EnterpriseMaine will spend the money only if Norway Savings commits to keeping the project in the business park. “It’s a combination of things of trying to make the project work,” he said. “Obviously we want to keep the project in the Oxford Hills.”

Harmon said last February that the bank’s education center could wind up being built elsewhere in the Oxford Hills if a feasible solution is not reached for the business park.

Norway Savings paid around $10,000 an acre to Western Maine Development, the real estate arm of the Growth Council, for the two front lots at the business park. The deal was announced in May 2004.

Meanwhile, Doney said he hopes to find “high-wage manufacturing” tenants for the remaining two lots at the business park that are for sale. Each is approximately 10 acres.

“We don’t have any hot prospects in the works right now,” he said. “We’re targeting higher-wage manufacturing. We’re holding out for that.”

The lots are listed with a commercial real estate firm in Portland, he said.