EUSTIS – About 40 people packed the Eustis Community Center on Monday night to learn more about a tax increment financing proposal presented by Stratton Lumber Inc.

The lumber company, which opened its doors in the early 1980s, employs 52 full-time workers. They produce softwood, dimension framing lumber for houses in a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing plant on a 65-acre site on Fontaine Road in Stratton.

Originally assessed at $7.2 million, the plant recently underwent a $3 million modernization project that increased its net worth by nearly half.

As a result, Stratton Lumber has proposed a TIF agreement that would return 69.2 percent of the new property taxes it would pay for the modernization back to the company.

In return, the company would continue to pay full property taxes on the originally assessed $7.2 million and says it would be able to maintain existing employment levels and to stay competitive in the softwood lumber market by lowering its overall costs, according to the agreement.

Town Hall project official, ‘real’

MECHANIC FALLS – One week before temporary offices are to arrive on its front lawn, leaders have signed contracts to renovate the aging Town Hall.

“We have squeezed the time as far as it could go,” Town Manager Dana Lee said Tuesday. “Now, we know it’s real.”

The $670,000 project, debated for nearly a decade, stalled earlier this month after contractors submitted bids charging more money for the renovation than the town had approved.

The lowest of the three bids, from H.E. Callahan of Auburn, surpassed the budgeted amount by $89,000. So cuts had to be made.

Renovations are due to begin in the first week of June.

Auburn councilor blocks e-mail

AUBURN – Auburn City Councilor Bob Mennealy can cross one name off his e-mail list: Councilor Kelly Matzen has set up his computer to block notes from Mennealy as soon as they arrive.

“I don’t think he was trying to get away with anything,” Matzen said. “I just think he was inviting people to take part in a discussion that is better suited for City Council chambers.”

Matzen said he made the decision late one night last week after receiving several e-mails from Mennealy asking questions about city TIF districts.

“I just made a snap decision and e-mailed back that he was blocked from my home computer and my computer at work,” Matzen said.

For Mennealy, the e-mails are a way to document his thoughts and to present ideas to other councilors outside council chambers.

“I’m just trying to present all the facts,” Mennealy said. “I think that there is information out there that is contrary to what we are hearing in council chambers, and I’m trying to get all of the information on the table.”

Arts commission seeks artists

MEXICO – The arts and industry are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the River Valley is full of artists and writers, photographers and historians, along with many cultures.

Becky Welsh knows there are at least 120 creative people in the valley’s 10 towns, and now she’s looking for more.

As the community arts coordinator, Welsh plans to develop a directory of artistic, creative people for distribution around the state. The money for her position comes from the Maine Arts Commission.

She’s identified the first 120 by word of mouth. A community arts forum set for May 22 is bound to reveal even more, she believes.

The forum will be 4 to 7:30 p.m. at Mountain Valley Middle School. Everyone is invited to come and give input.

Auburn family flees house fire

AUBURN – A Wood Street family fled their home Tuesday night when fire flared up on the second floor, sending smoke pouring from the eaves of the house.

Firefighters made quick work of the blaze at 10 Wood St., but part of the building sustained fire, smoke and water damage.

The couple and a grandchild who live in the house escaped without injury. Wood Street runs between Summer and Winter streets, near Union Street bypass.

The first police officer to reach the scene reported seeing flames in a second floor window. Thick smoke rolled from the eaves. Firefighters smashed out windows and attacked the flames with jets of water. Crews manning firetrucks surrounded the house, on Wood, Summer and Parker streets.

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