HALLOWELL — Officials in Hallowell have scheduled a public hearing for next month on the 10-year renewal of a tax increment financing and credit enhancement agreement for the Camden National Bank Ice Vault, formerly known as the Kennebec Ice Arena.

Facility owner Peter Prescott had originally applied for a 20-year, 100% TIF credit enhancement proposal after the arena’s roof collapsed in 2011. The TIF was modified to 10 years and approved, with the option for an additional 10-year renewal after its May 2022 expiration.

The terms requested by Prescott and lawyer Les Wilkinson were for a 10-year extension of the existing proposal, but with 95% of assessed taxes being returned to the developer for the first six years, 85% in the seventh year, 75% in the eighth year, 65% in the ninth year and 55% in the 10th year.

Hallowell resident Patricia Connors, who last year distributed a flyer to city residents urging them not to support an extension of the tax break agreement, voiced concerns during a meeting last Monday about extending the agreement and urged the city not to continue the tax breaks.

“Peter Prescott argued for a 20-year TIF with a (credit enhancement agreement) in 2010 and lost,” Connors said. “He lost because the council knew what it was doing. The council was right. He had enough money and he did rebuild. We should put the over half-million dollars this extension would cost toward needed capital improvements, such as the Police and Public Works departments. We will all benefit from these investments in our community.”

Mayor George Lapointe thanked Connors for her comments, saying he and other Hallowell officials have received emails supporting and opposing the TIF renewal that is to be added to the public record at a public hearing scheduled for Feb. 14.

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TIF districts shelter property taxes generated by new development. Once established, a TIF district allows a municipality to realize all of the newly created value within it. Without a TIF, newly created taxable value would be shifted into state funding formulas, resulting in decreases in state aid to education and revenue sharing and an increase in county taxes.

Credit enhancement agreements assist developers by using a percentage of newly generated tax revenues to assist with project costs. These payments are made directly to the developer or business.

The entrance to the Camden National Bank Ice Vault at 203 Whitten Road in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

On Jan. 27, 2021, the Hallowell Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend the extension, with councilor Maureen AuCoin requesting the city’s portion be ported to the Downtown TIF District.

Councilors discussed the renewal Jan. 10 with lawyers Wilkinson, Greg Im and Shana Mueller. Prescott’s son, Steve, attended in his father’s absence. Peter Prescott was reportedly home with an illness.

Steve Prescott thanked the council for considering the renewal and discussed how the Camden National Bank Ice Vault at 203 Whitten Road has benefited the community over the past 11 years.

“There’s good community involvement and, honestly, what we have today is more experience and knowledge in dealing with the programs that we’re dealing with,” Steve Prescott said.

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AuCoin asked if numbers related to the tax revenue shift, and how it would impact what is being paid to the school and county and affect the municipal budget, would be available in time for a public hearing.

Lapointe asked if these numbers would be available in time for the public hearing Feb. 14, and lawyers Im and Mueller nodded their heads in agreement via the Zoom call.

Mueller said they would be able to provide the city with up-to-date numbers “well in advance of February.”

Racks of rental skates last Wednesday at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault at 203 Whitten Road in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AuCoin suggested planning a future site visit so everyone is aware how the ice arena benefits the community.

“I was up there this morning with Bob McIntire,” she said, “and we were picking up food for the food bank, so there are things that the (former) Kennebec Ice Arena does that I think maybe we’re not all aware of, and it just hit me this morning that there is another community benefit they provide once a month. That’s where Good Shepherd drops off food, for not just our communities but the surrounding communities.”

McIntire is a city resident and active in the Hallowell All Age-Friendly Committee.

Councilor Diana Scully has asked if information at February’s meeting could include the perceived benefits and downsides of renewing the TIF.

“There have been a number of concerns raised about continuing the TIF,” Scully said. “To have it well-rounded, I think we should look at both the concerns and the perceived benefits.”

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