‘The Lazarus Project’ ahead of schedule

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CANTON – Ground is expected to be broken this year on the new village center, almost four years after the Androscoggin River flooded the old one again, Oxford County municipal officers were told Wednesday night.

Project coordinator Diane Ray said the relocation effort is called The Lazarus Project and plans are ahead of schedule.

“It will be a new town center with a small town atmosphere,” Ray said.

The flood in December 2003 caused millions of dollars in damage and “built a whole lot of momentum,” she said. Faced with severe floods about every 15 years, she said, the last one prompted townspeople to begin implementing their new growth plan that called for moving the village to higher ground.

With nearly $5 million, the town has purchased 35 homes and is in the process of buying out five more, Ray told about 35 members of the Oxford County Municipal Officers Association at their monthly meeting. Most homes were razed, while at least one will be moved.

“This is a five-year plan, and in 18 months we’re more than half done,” she said.

In late 2006, the special projects committee closed on the purchase of about 30 acres from five owners for $400,000. The village, complete with a community center, about 40 single-family homes, and possibly an apartment building or two, will be built off Edmunds Road, which is off Route 108.

Once most of the 66 properties in the flood plain are purchased and either demolished or moved, Ray said the town will have about 60 acres of contiguous land on which to develop multi-use trails, parks, and perhaps a bird sanctuary, public garden and farmers market.

Ray said about five properties will likely not be purchased and razed for a variety owners’ personal reasons.

Most of the grants received so far are from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal sources.

“FEMA has bent over backwards for us,” she said.

Ray said all the funding necessary to begin construction for the infrastructure for the new village should be in place within two weeks.

“It’s time to show something tangible,” she said.

During the 2003 flood, more than $2 million damage was reported, 39 homes evacuated, hundreds of people moved to safety, and a nursing home, town office, churches and elementary school were made inaccessible.

The Oxford County Municipal Officers Association meets again Feb. 28 at the Rockemeka Grange Hall in Peru.

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