WATERVILLE — City councilors Tuesday voted to authorize the city to apply for a $300,000 grant to help start a business that would produce logs made of hay for burning in wood stoves and fireplaces.

Peter Bragdon, of Vassalboro, hopes to open Bragdon Farm LLC in November in the former Harris Baking Co. building in Waterville.

The $900,000 startup project would be funded by a $300,000 state Department of Economic and Community Development Community Development Block Grant that the city would apply for, as well as a Maine Department of Agriculture loan and a U.S. Department of Agriculture value-added producer grant, according to Darryl Sterling, executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council.

Sterling, who worked on the CDBG application with grant writer Jennifer Kierstead, said the hay log business would be the first of its kind.

“There is a market there in the millions of dollars for this,” Sterling said Wednesday.

He and Bragdon spoke Tuesday at a public hearing before the council.

Bragdon, a farmer for more than 32 years, would produce the logs using hay that is considered low-quality because of very wet weather.

The business would create 10 jobs over the first 12 to 18 months, according to Sterling.

“They are going to start in the garage section of the building, which is about 6,000 square feet, and re-roof and clean up the whole lot,” he said.

Sterling said if all goes as planned, the business would either rehabilitate the larger complex or demolish it and build a new building.

He said the site was chosen for its easy access to a rail line.

Bragdon has a lease-purchase option on the building, which is owned by Dirigo U.S. Ranger Cadets and has been vacant since 1998.

Sterling said the city is expected to learn in September whether it is awarded the CDBG grant.

Councilors on Tuesday wished Bragdon good luck in his venture.

“We’d love to see a re-use in that building,” said Councilor Eliza Mathias, D-Ward 6.

Mayor Karen Heck thanked Bragdon for thinking of Waterville in his quest for a location.

In other matters at Tuesday’s meeting, councilors and city officials wished firefighter Robert Shay well.

Shay worked 29 years for the Fire Department before retiring last week. He received a standing ovation from city officials.

Shay, who attended the meeting with his wife, Cathy, said he started as a call firefighter in 1979, so he has been in the profession nearly 35 years.

“I loved every single minute of it,” he said. “I really did enjoy working with the city and working as a firefighter.”

He said he retired not because he wanted to, but because of medical reasons.

“You have been an incredibly, incredibly dedicated person,” said Councilor Rosemary Winslow, D-Ward 3.

“It’s easy when you love the job,” Shay replied.

Councilors also voted to buy two 2012 Chevrolet Caprice police cruisers from Quirk Ford, of Augusta, for $46,770. The price includes the trade-in value of 2006 and 2009 Ford Crown Victoria cruisers.

The council also voted to demolish a house at 38 Summer St., give $1,000 to the Lac-Megantic relief fund being administered by the town of Farmington, sell property at 44 High St. that was acquired because of failure to pay taxes, and approve a policy for selling personal property owned by the city.

The policy allows the city to sell items such as desks, computers and phones that have an estimated value of $5,000 or less.

City Manager Michael Roy said the proposed policy was prompted by the police station’s move to Colby Circle. The town of Oakland wanted to buy the lockers in the old police station in the basement of City Hall, he said.

“We’re certainly very happy about that because we have no use for those lockers, which may be 20, 25 years old,” Roy said.

“Easily,” police Chief Joseph Massey added.

Roy noted that the policy applies only to personal property, not real estate.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]