Mike Pelletier managed Aubuchon Hardware in Skowhegan for 30 years, then spent a few more at Mill Stream Elementary School in Norridgewock, where his wife, Mary Jane, is still a teacher.

In 2012, looking for something different to do, he and Mary Jane bought Island Dairy Treat in Skowhegan.

That was the beginning.

In November, buoyed by the success of their Skowhegan business, they opened M&M’s Ice Cream and Fireside Cafe in Madison.

“It was a beautiful place and the bank had foreclosed so we bought it for a really reasonable price,” Pelletier, 54, said of the Victorian-style house now home to the new cafe.

“It’s been really great. (Business) grows every day,” said Pelletier.

He and Mary Jane’s goal for 2016 is to expand business hours and open seven days per week in 2016 and to expand the menu, Pelletier said. They’d also like to add live music.

“We’re having fun. I enjoy it. I like watching people enjoy themselves,” he said.

Pelletier isn’t the only one excited and optimistic about 2016.

Across central Maine, public officials, business owners and others say they are looking forward to building on successes of the past year and reaping the benefits of years of hard work.

Here are what some of them have to say:


Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro, said, “I think 2016 will be a year of building on the successes of 2015 as we continue to market the revitalization of our downtown.”

Isgro, 34, who is a controller at Skowhegan Savings Bank, said a lot of development is expected to occur in the city over the next couple of years. The past year saw the unprecedented collaboration between the city and Colby College, which bought four downtown buildings and pledged to be a force behind downtown Waterville’s economic upturn; featured the announcement Massachusetts information technology company Collaborative Consulting will open an office in the city that’s expected to employ 200 within a few years; and Isgro’s own collaboration with Candace Savinelli, owner of Holy Cannoli, with whom he is opening an Italian market.

He said it’s about working together. “I think it’s going to be important that we stop along the way and celebrate all the small successes and continue to celebrate our community and each other.”

Community is also on the mind of Oakland Town Manager Gary Bowman, who hit the ground running in his first year as town manager, spearheading the creation of a new summer festival, OakFest, steering a proposed new police station through a ballot referendum and pulling together a downtown betterment committee.

Bowman, 55, a former Oakland police officer, was appointed to the position in September 2014. It is his first municipal management position.

Bowman said 2016 will likely be just as busy as 2015. His aim is to restore a sense of community and civic pride to the town and bring more businesses and residents in.

“I certainly have a business plan for the town of Oakland and it seems to be working,” Bowman said.


Bill Swain, 46, owner of Maine Stitching Specialties in the former Dirigo Stitching factory in Skowhegan, opened 15 months ago with seven employees.

By the end of this year, he and his wife, Julie, both of Kingfield, say there will be 20-22 workers making pet visibility products, American flags, hotel draperies and privacy curtains for hospitals.

“Things are going very well — we’re going to close out 2015 very strong,” Swain said. “We’re already booking significant work for 2016. We’re on track at where we planned to be and maybe a little ahead of that. We look to a very prosperous year for us.”

In Skowhegan, Richard Berry, pastor of the Trinity Evangelical Free Church, which runs the men’s homeless shelter, said one of his goals was met in 2015 — publishing a book “Sheltered by Jesus: A Voice for the Homeless.”

He said work has begun building a homeless shelter for families, his effort to keep families intact even during hard times. Construction is planned for the spring.

“2016 looks pretty good,” Berry said. “It looks like we’re progressing to take care of more homeless and get them off the street this coming year because we’ll have better facilities.”

The new family shelter will have beds for 48 people. The men’s shelter has a capacity of 60.


In Norridgewock, Fire Chief Dave Jones is looking forward to the town finally having a new fire station.

Since 1986 the Norridgewock Fire Department has been raising money for the new station — the construction of which recently finished at a new location at 22 Main St.

“It finally came true,” Jones, 64, said. “I didn’t think we would reach our goal. It took 30 years to get there, but we did it.”

The cost of the station totaled more than $800,000, with money coming from the fire department as well as capital reserves, undesignated money and tax increment financing money.

The department, which has a staff of about 20 volunteer firefighters, plans to move in this weekend.

“Our goal for 2016 is to get used to the new building and having the extra room,” Jones said. “Hopefully it might help recruit some new firefighters. That would be the ultimate goal, to have some new certified firefighters, and this might help. We had no room before, no meeting room, we had to have meetings sitting on trucks. Now we have double the space.”

Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols said the biggest success of 2015 was reopening the Franklin County jail to a fully operational status. After five years as a 72-hour holding center under the statewide jail consolidation, the jail reopened in April and now can house sentenced Franklin County inmates for up to one year.

“Now that we are operating as our own entity, we are the model on how to mange a small county jail professionally and efficiently,” Nichols said in his end of year report.

With control over it’s own jail once again, Nichols says 2016 will be about going forward with the success of 2015, and doing so on a budget that does not strain the Franklin County taxpayers.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and staying within budget,” Nichols said. “It all comes down to money and it all just needs to be frugal.”

Wilton Town Manager Rhonda Irish would like to see the success the town saw in 2015 with the environmental cleanup of the former Wilton Tannery on U.S. Route 2 be carried over to a similar project Irish has been working to get funded at the Forster Mill on Depot Street.

On Dec. 18, Irish submitted grant applications for $600,000 worth of funding through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but says the town will have to consider other ways to fund the project even if they receive the grants, because demolition of the building alone is slated to cost $900,000.

“My own personal and biggest goal… is to find ways to do a good remediation of the Forster Mill, which means safely cleaning up and removing hazardous materials from the site,” Irish said.

Wilton will know if their funding applications have been accepted in April.

Staff writers Amy Calder, Doug Harlow, Peter McGuire, Rachel Ohm and Lauren Abbate contributed to this story.

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