Town officials pleased with revised downtown study

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PARIS — A consultant hired to complete a study recommending ways to reinvigorate the downtown has submitted an unofficial revised draft to town officials. 

Adopting a markedly different tone Monday evening, selectmen thanked Sandra Swett for submitting the work, just a month after criticizing the study as unprofessional and incomplete.

Though handed a digital and print copy, selectmen have not officially approved the study, which Swett said was finalized languagewise but needed additional editing. The topic is expected to be placed on the agenda for the board’s next meeting for a thorough evaluation. 

In May, selectmen hired Swett to devise an advisory document to give town planners guidelines for future economic development, aesthetic suggestions for buildings and ideas on artistic programming. The work was finished in late October and submitted to the board for review. 

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The 67-page document compiled demographic information and interviews with an array of community groups to offer recommendations to revitalize the Market Square area, which roughly runs from the Billings Dam Park to Moore Park and the McLaughlin Gardens. Swett previously said the study — known as a “master plan” — is required to apply for grants. 

At their Nov. 3 meeting, selectmen ripped the study apart, saying it failed to meet their directives and expectations. Specifically, members of the board noted that it made no mention on how to address parking, contained incorrect demographic information and, critically, lacked depth on how to implement the findings.

Selectmen gave Swett a month to make the necessary revisions, such as adding footnotes to cite sourced information, identifying unlabeled charts and correcting typographical errors. 

On Monday, they said their concerns had been addressed.

“It looks very good,” Selectman Samuel Elliot said.

Several residents defended Swett, castigating selectmen for their initial reaction. Rick Little read aloud a statement he said was prepared by his wife, Sarah Glynn, who wrote that watching their response to an initial draft was disheartening. 

“The negativity surrounding this first submission has now colored the public perception of the value of this project as a whole and has vanquished the good intentions and hard work of so many who contributed to the study,” Little said. 

Swett, a Paris businesswoman who lives in Bridgton, said she considered her job done.

“It’s the voice of the people. It’s what they wanted,” she said.

ccrosby@sunjournal.com 

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