Several state lawmakers in Oxford County are backing a bill to fund a new convention center for this region.

“There’s a need to respond to the fact that Oxford Hills lacks a space to attract conventions, or even to hold large-scale dinners in the area that would bring businesses to the region,” Rep. Sawin Millett Jr., R-Waterford, said last week.

Millett is supporting a bill this legislative session that would financially support the project, along with Sen. David Hastings III, R-Fryeburg; and Reps. James Hamper, R-Oxford; Bruce Hanley, R-Paris; Arlan Jodrey, R-Bethel; and Richard Sykes, R-Harrison.

The bill, L.D. 550, seeks $250,000 of state money to match funding already pledged to build the center, possibly on the Oxford County Fairgrounds.

Suzanne Grover, president of the Oxford County Fair, has already gathered about $250,000 in private pledges to support the project, Millett said. He estimated the cost of building would be around half a million dollars.

Millett said the bill was introduced last year, but because there was not enough money to spend on new projects, it was carried over to this legislative session.

“It’s competing against a variety of bills asking for money,” Millett said. There are 73 bills on the appropriation board’s list from last session, costing tens of millions of dollars, he added. “We have to wait and see how much money is left over.”

The manufactured housing industry in this region could benefit from the center, Millett said. Also, the development of condos and commercial space at the old C.B. Cummings Mill site in Norway shows a trajectory of growth and interest here, he said.

Hastings said recently in a phone interview, “Oxford Hills is something of a service center for the area. There is good industrial growth there, and being able to have larger functions would be an enhancement to the economy of the area.”

The decision on this matter is expected at the end of March or early April, according to Millett.

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