I feel obliged to respond to what your publication has reported about TIFs, especially regarding The Bank of Maine Ice Vault.
Neither the Kennebec Ice Arena nor its successor, Ice Vault, have turned a profit from operations. This was fully disclosed during negotiations with Hallowell.
Instead of abandoning the arena, Hallowell agreed to a TIF to help build the ice arena. Hallowell agreed to forgo the increased property taxes from the new arena for 10 years while I assumed sole responsibility to repay a multi-million dollar construction loan.
I did receive overtures to build in other towns that I promptly declined. The city of Hallowell and I understood we needed to rebuild at the same site. We just had to figure out how to do it together, which is why we negotiated a TIF. Residents of Hallowell, councilors, employees and City Committee members devoted hundreds of hours to achieve this goal.
The discussions went on for months, containing painstaking details, with both heated and droll moments. The city and I arrived at a consensus about the terms through compromise, a commitment to the community and hard work. The dividend is a new ice arena.
The ice arena was intended to be a community resource with economic, social and educational benefits. I am proud to say we are delivering those benefits back to the community.
With thousands of local skaters and teams as well as those from out of state using the facility, there has been a positive economic impact on local shops, restaurants and hotels. Families have a healthy and affordable activity; the Red Cross has held blood drives at the facility. These events are an important part of the social fabric of our community. Local nonprofit organizations, schools and other charitable organizations use the facility for training and education, and so contribute to the educational benefits being returned to the community.
The partnership between the city of Hallowell and the Bank of Maine Ice Vault came together as one strong positive force to make possible the return of an ice-skating facility to the city. The type of plan that was used to make this happen is called a TIF, Tax Increment Financing. In the case of The Bank of Maine Ice Vault, it has proven a TIF can work and does work in generating public benefits.
In her article, Naomi Schalit asserts that I simply “threatened” to leave Hallowell and take the ice arena with me if I didn’t receive a TIF. This is not true. The writer never contacted me, the staff at The Bank of Maine Ice Vault nor the city of Hallowell for our comments.
In closing, Bill Boardman, the ice vault’s general manager, and I want to thank the city of Hallowell, the community, The Bank of Maine, Skating Association of Maine and all other businesses and people who helped make possible the building of The Bank of Maine Ice Vault.
Peter E. Prescott is owner of The Bank of Maine Ice Vault. Editor’s note: The article by Naomi Schalit, of Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, to which this column refers appeared only in the newspapers’ online versions.