LePage put the brakes on downtown redevelopment projects, including projects in Skowhegan and Livermore Falls, when he announced last month that he would delay authorizing the $3.5 million in funds from the Communities for Maine's Future bond, which was passed by the Legislature in 2009 and approved by a majority of voters in Nov. 2010. Recently, the Livermore Falls Advertiser reported that the governor would move ahead with funding the Livermore Falls Lamb block project. The money would come from “rural development funds” and a state offered “bridge loan.”
“It just doesn’t make sense,” said McCabe, a Skowhegan Democrat. “The Governor is willing to help Livermore Falls but he’s leaving the rest of us in the dark. All I want to know is how Livermore Falls got help and what we need to do to get the same support.”
McCabe first urged the governor to release the funds on July 12. He received a hand-written response from the governor dated July 14 recommending the town “sell bonds to complete the project and the state could provide the funds at some later time.”
McCabe wrote to him again on July 24 after reading the Livermore Falls Advertiser report asking several questions related to the Livermore Falls Lamb Block project, including how Skowhegan could get similar support from the state. He received a typed response on July 27 reiterating the governor’s refusal to support Skowhegan or the projects in other towns. It did not answer any of the questions posed by Rep. McCabe.
“I’m getting more concerned every day,” said McCabe, who sent another letter asking what process Skowhegan should follow to receive funds for the voter-approved redevelopment grants. “I’ve written the Governor several times now asking for clarification on how the state can help us get this project moving again and every time he refuses to answer my questions.”
Since the bond was approved in 2010 the town of Skowhegan signed contracts with the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and began to proceed renovating its downtown. The town has spent nearly $40,000 toward the redevelopment project, it has begun planning with engineers, and local businesses have invested more than half a million dollars to match the bond funds they won from the state.
“A lot of time, money and jobs are tied to this project. We can’t afford to wait; we need answers now,” McCabe said.