SKOWHEGAN — Selectmen voted Tuesday night to allow the town’s economic and community development director to apply for a $150,000 state facade grant, which for the first time will reach out to businesses outside of the downtown district.

The only catch is that businesses outside of downtown must be declared eligible under state “slum and blight” guidelines, director Jeff Hewett said. In the town’s two previous facade grants — both for $100,000 in 2006 and 2010 — project applicants were strictly limited to downtown locations, Hewett said.

“It will be available townwide, subject to the property being able to be listed as slum and blight,” Hewett said of the designation.

Any building or mixed commercial property in the town’s designated slum and blight district — roughly from High Street to the Kennebec River and across the first bridge to the Chapter 11 building on Island Avenue — already is eligible for the facade grant money if it is made available, Hewett said.

There also is a $150,000 required match to the grant if it is approved. That money would be paid into the program by project participants, not by town taxpayers.

Selectmen Tuesday night also discussed Hewett’s suggestion that $100,000 of the grant be earmarked for downtown and $50,000 for businesses outside of downtown, but they quickly rejected the notion.

“It’s not equitable,” Selectman Donald Skillings said. The other selectmen agreed. “We’re all community, all of us,” Selectwoman Darla Pickett said.

The vote in favor of the grant application “for anyone that meets the criteria” was unanimous, 4-0.

Facade work can include signs, awnings, storefront improvements, repairs or restoration of windows, doors and trim and painting and repairs to a building’s exterior.

Dugan Murphy, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan, who will assist in the application process and its implementation, said that in the first two rounds of facade grant work in 2006 and 2010, 32 projects were completed at 28 properties. Work included new streetlights, sidewalk improvements and pedestrian crossing lights.

For businesses outside the downtown to qualify for the maximum $10,000 in grant money, they must be certified by the code enforcement officer as eligible under the slum and blight guidelines, be approved by state historic preservation rules, be current on their tax payments and ensure that wages are paid according to federal Davis-Bacon guidelines.

Under Davis-Bacon rules, contractors and subcontractors working on federally funded or assisted contracts in excess of $2,000 for the construction, alteration or repair of public buildings or public works must be paid the prevailing wage, which differs for each type of contracted work.

The grant is administered through the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s micro-enterprise assistance program. The funding originates with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“The point of the grant is aesthetic improvement to commercial and mixed-use buildings,” Murphy said. “So the more visible and the more visually impactful the improvement, the higher priority for deciding where to designate funds.”

Details of program guidelines and eligibility will be discussed during a public hearing set for 6 p.m. Feb. 4 in the Municipal Building.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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