Voters OK serving as loan conduit

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WILTON – Nearly 40 people attending a public hearing and special town meeting Tuesday night voted unanimously to allow Wilton to become a conduit for a $2.5 million state loan needed by Nichols Custom Welding Inc. to fulfill a $3.1 million government contract to build 216 military fuel trailers.

Peter Nielsen, Wilton’s town manager, explained that acting as conduit for the Interim Finance Program loan from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development should not endanger the town at all. Nichols is expected to pay the loan amount back to the state within the next six months, Nielsen said, but the company expects to be paid for the 216 trailers in August, bringing Nichols well within the time frame.

In addition, Nielsen said, if Nichols fails to pay the money back or fails to create 50 new jobs in the next two years – a stipulation of the loan – Wilton will not be responsible for the penalty. Nielsen said he has a signed document from Nichols agreeing to take on any penalties Wilton incurs because of the loan.

After the special town meeting, the selectmen met at their regularly scheduled time, and voted unanimously, with no discussion, to loan Nichols Development LLC $35,000 from the town Revolving Loan Account at the behest of Nichols President Gil Reed. The loan request is the first to successfully pass review by the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments since the account was opened, Nielsen said. The money, along with a $25,000 loan from AVCOG, will be used to renovate warehouse space in the former Bass Shoe building that will be used by a current tenant in need of expansion. It will be paid back, with an interest rate of Wall Street prime plus 1 percent, after 18 months at a rate of $2,081.91 per month.

The board also voted 4-1 to remove from the town meeting warrant an article asking for funds of up to $250,000 to purchase a new firetruck. The board agreed to discuss the matter further after town meeting.

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