Work going forward on Odd Fellows hall

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NORWAY – The Growth Council has said that work will resume on the vacant Odd Fellows building by the middle of the April, following a delay due to haggling over prices of construction materials that skyrocketed after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Marcy Boughter of the Growth Council updated selectmen at their Thursday meeting on the renovation plans of the 112-year-old Main Street building. Selectmen said they had heard complaints from citizens that the project appeared to have stalled.

“Nothing’s being done. They’re getting sick of it,” Selectman Leslie Flanders said.

Boughter said, “Economic development is a lengthy process.”

The Growth Council, an organization trying to drive growth in this region, has undertaken the ambitious goal to redo the historic building to attract new businesses and help enliven Main Street. It bought the building from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge No. 16 in 2002 for $60,000.

In December 2003, the council received a $500,000 grant from the Maine Municipal Investment Trust Fund, which it matched with $500,000. That money was slated for the demolition and reconstruction of the interior of the building.

“Above and beyond that, we’ll have to raise,” Boughter said, of the anticipated costs to finish the building.

The demolition of the building, started last fall, is complete. Now, Boughter said the nuts and bolts phase of the project will begin, like updating electricity and the plumbing.

She said she expects this leg to be finished by June, and the building to be ready for tenants soon after.

The Growth Council intends to try to talk the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce into moving into the bottom floor, Boughter told selectmen.

The Sun Journal also reported last September that the local television station NPC-TV, Channel 2, planned to move into the first floor.

Boughter said that no tenant has confirmed yet. She also responded to questions about selling the building.

“That building is not for sale,” Boughter said. “But if we’re approached by another company, like with Cummings, we’re not going to be selfish. Our aim is economic development.” Boughter was referring to the Libra Foundation buying the C.B. Cummings Mill behind Main Street to turn into condos and offices.

The Growth Council plans to move into an upstairs floor in the Odd Fellows building when it is complete.

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