Longtime Fort Kent VFW building in its final days
FORT KENT, Maine — Demolition began this week on the former Lozier-O’Grady Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9609 building on East Main Street.
“We really hated to see the building go,” Fort Kent veteran and VFW member Gary Saucier said Wednesday. “It’s part of our history and part of the town.”
Following the St. John and Fish River flood of 2008, however, the building became increasingly problematic and expensive to maintain, Saucier said. With flood waters filling the basement and parts of the first floor, the building’s heating system was ruined and it began to deteriorate structurally.
After the town took over ownership of the property from the VFW, members of Fort Kent’s town council in July approved the building’s demolition.
Town Manager Donald Guimond said the building, which has not been used regularly since 2008, is being torn down because of safety concerns.
“We tried to have meetings there after the flood,” Saucier said. “But, it was too cold and damp.” The organization had to shut down the building each winter, which only contributed to its deterioration.
Saucier said the VFW post was unsuccessful in securing any Federal Emergency Management Agency monies to rehabilitate the building after the flood.
Guimond said the town council has no immediate plans for the property, other than to make sure the site is safe once demolition is complete.
The building is within one of the town’s three tax increment finance districts, according to Guomind. He added that TIF monies may be available to help pay for the cost of demolition.
The question of what the site may be used for once the old VFW post is finally razed has yet to be answered, Guimond said. The town has been approached by a few potential buyers, he said, although no details about future uses were discussed.
With Riverside Park located across the road and the benefits of having the property back on the town’s tax rolls (the VFW was tax exempt), Guimond said that town officials are most interested in private development at the location.
The local VFW post established itself at the East Main location in 1949, according to Saucier. He was unsure exactly how old the building was, although he believes it was a restaurant sometime prior to the VFW moving in.
Saucier said local VFW post members still meet monthly and are hoping to secure a new meeting place of their own in the near future. They currently meet at a conference room inside the municipal center.
Longtime members are hoping that younger veterans who are joining the post will rejuvenate the organization and be successful in rebuilding the post at a new location.
Members have been actively raising funds to construct a new place or renovate an existing space.