Promoting local business, reducing drug-related crimes, securing revenue sharing for cities and towns, helping to prevent the growth of homelessness and placing people in stable jobs and apartments are some of the goals for 2015 that community, civic and local businesses leaders in the Waterville area. On Wednesday, they shared their accomplishments for 2014 and hopes for the coming year.

BETTY PALMER

The Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2015, and it hopes to build upon several initiatives that grew in 2014, said Palmer, executive director of the Waterville shelter.

In 2014, 67 percent of people who completed the shelter’s employment program retained the jobs in which the program placed them, Palmer said. “I think that’s pretty huge and it’s something we’d like the community to know,” she said. Also, 97 percent of people the shelter helped place in permanent housing in the last two years still have a place to live. “A lot of our goals for 2015 are to continue to build on those success rates for people,” Palmer said.

In the next few months, shelter organizers hope to announce plans for the second floor of the organization’s new building, which opened in 2012. The added space will be used for stabilizing services not available in the community, Palmer said. Such services help people get their lives in order by helping them find jobs, housing and counseling.

A 25th-anniversary celebration will kick off in April with the shelter’s annual volunteer meeting and celebration and will continue through November at the shelter’s annual Thanksgiving fundraiser.

Along with the celebration, shleter organizers hope to raise awareness in 2015 of the phases of homelessness and how it can be prevented, Palmer said. In 2014, there was an increase statewide in the number of homeless families. Palmer said part of the reason for the increase — families make up about 35 percent of the homeless population at the shelter — is the availability of full-time jobs and the reduction in hours at many jobs.

The shelter is working on a new program, Homelessness Prevention and Diversion, which will provide assistance in small ways to families who are in danger of losing their homes. The program works with landlords and helps families consolidate bills and make better spending plans.

“The program has been incredibly successful, and we’re hoping to secure funding to do more of that in 2015,” Palmer said. “Prevention is really important. Sometimes people just need a small hand up and they’ll never be homeless.”

MIKE ROY

One of the Waterville’s key goals for 2015 is to keep the tax rate stable, which was difficult in 2014 and will continue to be hard because of cuts to municipal revenue sharing, City Manager Roy said.

“Certainly one of our goals for 2015 is to continue to press upon the governor and the Legislature our right to those revenue sharing funds, which are provided for in law,” Roy said. “That has to be one of our biggest goals in 2015.”

Without revenue sharing funds, it becomes hard for towns and cities to fund services, Roy said. “For me, that’s our number one goal, is to try and be successful in that argument. They’re critical in us doing what the state wants us to do, which is maintain services and spur economic growth.”

Roy cited remarks made by outgoing Mayor Karen Heck in highlighting the accomplishments of the city in 2014, including two new businesses opening on Main Street and an expansion at the city’s recently renovated Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport.

He also mentioned the city’s new pay-as-you-throw trash collection system as something that, although controversial, was critical to the city approving a budget without a tax increase in 2014. Whether the pay-as-you-throw system becomes a permanent fixture in the city will be determined in a referendum in June 2015.

No major capital improvement projects are planned for 2015, Roy said.

“I think our goals are continuing to maintain services at an acceptable level and having a tax rate that’s also acceptable to people,” he said.

STEVE DEAN

Officials in Madison hoped a new designation by the state as a business-friendly community in 2014 would help attract more business to the area. As 2015 approaches, the Madison Business Alliance hopes to continue improving upon the local economy by promoting local business.

In 2015, the business alliance plans to feature four businesses per year as part of a business spotlight program, said Dean, vice chairman of the Madison Business Alliance.

“We have a lot of stuff going on in Madison, and people just don’t know about it. For 2015, our goal is to open everybody’s eyes to what we have in our backyard,” Dean said. “There are studies that actually show that when you spend a dollar locally, it will actually be transferred four times before it leaves the area.”

In the new program, businesses that belong to the Madison Business Alliance will be encouraged to visit the featured business and spread the word about what it has to offer. The alliance also will help the featured business develop a website if it doesn’t have one and promote it on the alliance’s website and Facebook page, Dean said.

“We want to stimulate businesses with self-employed people so we can increase jobs and increase their revenue,” he said.

KAREN LEWIA

The Children’s Cottage, a business on Water Street in Skowhegan since March 2013, is expanding inventory as well as hoping to help new businesses get a start in 2015.

Karen Lewia, who owns the children’s clothing store with her partner, Kirk Karkos, recently bought and renovated the floor above the Children’s Cottage at 66 Water St. In 2014, they welcomed two new businesses into the building, Midge’s Theater Arts Studio, a theater and arts studio for elementary and middle school children; and Kid Friendly Photography, a portrait studio.

“In the coming year, what we’re hoping is to continue to help promote the two businesses that are there, help them become more widely known and successful, and rent out the remaining office space,” said Lewia, 56.

She hopes to attract a fitness or wellness business such as a yoga studio, small fitness center or massage therapy practice to the space still available in the building. There is enough room for at least two more new businesses, she said.

“In the new year, that will be one of our priorities, to let people know that there is space available. I think it would be a great perk for people in the office space to be able to walk down the hall and have an exercise space,” Lewia said. “We’re trying to provide more access to people who work downtown.”

The Children’s Cottage moved to Water Street from North Avenue in March 2013, at first renting space at a different location on the main street in downtown Skowhegan. Helping other businesses to get started downtown has been a goal since moving to their new location, Lewia said.

“We want successful businesses downtown,” she said. “Downtown is really coming back and people are excited about what’s happening. We’ve heard so many people say they want to shop local, and the more we can offer, the more that will happen.”

SCOTT NICHOLS

One of the top goals of Franklin County Sheriff Nichols is to make the county jail a fully operational building again. Since 2008 the jail has functioned only as a 72-hour holding center as part of a state effort to reorganize the county jail system.

“That way we can better serve the people of Franklin County,” Nichols said.

In 2014, the department started a program called Elder Check, which provides a weekly visit by an officer to elderly people to make sure they are physically fine and are not being abused or taking advantage of. “It’s just a friendly way to check on them and make sure they’re doing all right,” Nichols said. He said the department is looking forward to continuing the program in 2015.

Other goals of the sheriff’s department for 2015 include reducing drug-related crime, which Nichols said represents a majority of the crime with which the agency deals. That includes trafficking in heroin and prescription pills as well as property damage, robbery and theft related to drugs.

“I think we’re making more inroads to arrests and warrants,” Nichols said. “We’ve really focused hard on it for the last two years, and we’re starting to see results; and we want to continue to work on that.”

NATE RUDY

Since taking over as the first executive director of Waterville Creates! a few weeks ago, Rudy, 39, said he has been busy setting up an office for the new nonprofit group.

The organization, formerly the Waterville Regional Arts and Community Center, is beginning preliminary work to unite arts groups in the city. Its goal for 2015 is to coordinate the efforts of arts and cultural groups in Waterville and promote the city as an arts destination.

“Right now we’re focusing on the fundamentals of building the organization and making contacts and doing outreach in the community,” Rudy said.

In addition to increasing and promoting programming at the arts organizations belonging to Waterville Creates! — which include the Maine Film Center, the Waterville Opera House, the Colby College Museum of Arts and others — the group plans to coordinate marketing and advertising efforts among arts organizations.

Looking ahead, Rudy said he hopes that Waterville Creates! will have assumed an important role in the city by the end of 2015.

“I think we’ll be leading the discussion about the assets that make the community a great place to live and work and creating marketing messages for tourism and for people around Maine, to help them see compel them to visit and spend some time with us here, enjoy a show or movie, visit the museum or tour Common Street Arts,” Rudy said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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