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Madawaska voters approve downtown revitalization funding

MADAWASKA, Maine — About 50 Madawaska voters turned out for a special town meeting on Tuesday and voted unanimously to authorize the Board of Selectman to secure a $3 million loan from the Maine Municipal Bond Bank to fund a downtown revitalization project.

The voters also authorized the selectmen to secure a 25 percent grant match obligation should the town receive a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant from the state. If the state awards the grant to Madawaska, the matching funds will be drawn from the loan.

“Right now we know we have a $3 million project,” town manager Gary Picard said on Thursday. “If we get the grant, it’s going to be a $3.3 million project.”  

Picard said that with residents voting to approve the loan, the town will became eligible to apply for additional grant monies.

“The downtown revitalization project is still in the study phase, and the details of the project will get sorted out in the next several months utilizing data from our strategic plan — Grand Plan Madawaska — and the grand plan committees that have been created to provide comment on this project,” Picard said.

Sheila Jans of Madawaska and Jim Haguewood, a consultant based in Washington state, prepared Grand Plan Madawaska in 2017 after surveying hundreds of residents, business owners, students and town leaders to get a sense of what was important to them.

The 41-page plan includes four broad goals Madawaska hopes to achieve through 2028; a strong sense of culture and place, a vibrant and attractive community, a diverse and thriving local economy; and an effective and exceptional government.

A major goal of the downtown revitalization project is to implement a multi-use trail system that will bring snowmobile traffic near the downtown., Picard said.

The trail system would provide a place for pedestrians and bicyclists to enjoy spending time outdoors, as well as a route for ATV riders and snowmobilers to enjoy their activities. Such a trail system could improve the town’s economy by drawing  snowmobilers in particular to the area, Picard said.

“Snowmobilers don’t come to Madawaska,” Picard said. “They have no reason to come through here. It’s too hard to get into town. It’s too inconvenient so they stay away and we’re missing out on a lot of economic revenue for our businesses.”

The downtown revitalization project also will involve beautification of Madawaska. Although plans are still being formulated, some ideas are to tear down dilapidated buildings and renovate the facades of remaining buildings, create more parking and green space areas, and improve sidewalks and crosswalks. New bilingual signage and banners printed in both English and French are also a possibility, according to Picard. He pointed out that many who travel to Quebec City do so by way of the international bridge in Madawaska, and that the bridge also serves as a gateway to those travelling south from Canada.

“The downtown revitalization project is a great opportunity to really wake up the community and make it something beautiful that people can be proud of and people that come through here will take notice of,” he said.

Picard said he expects it will take planners several months to develop a concrete plan for the downtown revitalization project, and that construction likely wouldn’t begin before next year.

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