SKOWHEGAN — The new sign in front of the Town Office is big and bright, and people seem to like it. The sign, which displays messages for upcoming events, is illuminated using light-emitting diode — or LED — lamps, which have a lifespan and electrical efficiency several times better than incandescent lamps and better than most fluorescent lamps.
The Board of Selectmen approved the sign last year at a cost of $27,396, and some residents have complained about the price and where the money came from since the sign went up last week, interim Town Manager Greg Dore said.
So what’s the problem?
“It seems people are confused at where the money came from,” Dore said. “The complaints I got were people saying they think the sign cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and our taxes shouldn’t go to that. It could be better spent, it could be spent on roads. People assume it came from taxation — it didn’t — it came from TIF funds.”
Dore said half of the money came from the SAPPI TIF, the other half was financed through Skowhegan’s downtown TIF.
A tax increment financing, or TIF district, is a public financing option in which taxes collected from increased property or equipment value are captured or frozen and used for public projects, such as a new sign or marketing.
The electronic sign is nearly 3 feet tall and 8 feet wide. The structure is 10 feet off the ground. Dore said the idea for the sign was former Town Manager John Doucette’s.
The sign displays messages for upcoming events such as concerts, dates and times of meetings, public suppers and when tax payments are due, Dore said.
“It’s there to keep people abreast of what’s happening in town,” he said. “It keeps them up to date on meetings coming up and also announces community events.”