SKOWHEGAN — The town of Skowhegan has been awarded a $400,000 grant to improve the municipal parking area with pedestrian walkways, lighting, trees and directional signs.

The grant was awarded by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development as part of 11 municipal grants statewide totaling $3.5 million. The money is to be matched with local money as part of Communities for Maine’s Future Program for downtown revitalization projects, said Jeffrey Hewett, Skowhegan’s economic and community development director.

Hewett said the town’s $400,000 match will come from money already invested at the Somerset Grist Mill.

“The grant is for improvements to the walkways, the lightingm, the green of the downtown parking lot,” he said. “This is to make it pedestrian friendly.”

Hewett said townspeople first have to accept the grant at the annual Town Meeting in June or at a special town meeting to be held sometime before that.

A public hearing is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the selectmen’s room at the Town Office.

Jennifer Olsen, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan, said her group was an advocate for the grant.

“One of the things we see happening is that there’s a lot of activity and invested ownership coming from the Somerset Grist Mill project,” Olsen said.

Olsen added that investments made by John Moore of the Strand Theater, Walter Hight automobile dealership and Aubuchon Hardware added to the need for a fresh look to the town’s principal parking area.

Other central Maine communities to receive grants include Belfast, Dover-Foxcroft, Livermore Falls, Unity, Winthrop and Monmouth, according to a release from GrowSmart Maine.

GrowSmart Maine and the Maine Downtown Coalition worked with Maine Legislature in 2009 to provide $3.5 million in bond funding for downtown revitalization grants. Voters approved the Communities for Maine’s Future Bond in the statewide referendum in June 2010.

Hewett said his office still has to complete phase two of the grant requirements to get historical clearance and to get the Skowhegan Planning Board and Kennebec Valley Council of Governments to approve the project.

Hewett said engineering work for the project would start within a month of acceptance of the grant by the town.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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