In their continuing efforts to spruce up downtown Monmouth and attract more businesses, local officials have approved the hiring of a part-time, economic development consultant.

The selectmen agreed to hire Darryl Sterling, who has worked for a number of other central Maine communities, at a Wednesday night meeting. He will make $70 an hour. That pay will come from a $120,000 fund created by the town as part of a downtown, tax increment financing, or TIF, agreement, said Town Manager Curtis Lunt.

Sterling will work for Monmouth approximately 10-12 hours a month, helping Lunt with administrative tasks such as managing the TIF fund and applying for grants to support downtown development. He will work for Monmouth on a trial basis for the next couple months.

“(Sterling) was recently working in Wilton, which got a $400,000 grant to redevelop the downtown,” Lunt said. “That’s great. That’s the kind of guy you want helping out your downtown. He worked in Richmond, and that place has changed. He’s got a reputation that got around.”

Monmouth has a committee of volunteers focused on economic development, and until now, Lunt has been tasked with helping them meet their objectives, but he has had to balance those tasks with his other duties as Town Manager.

“We’ve been looking for a consultant to help get things out the door,” Lunt said at the Wednesday night selectmen meeting. “Marketing is the toughest thing for us to do because it takes time.”

The Maine Department of Transportation has funding programs for towns like Monmouth that are on state highways and would like to improve their sidewalks, Lunt said, “but it’s not as simple as calling them up and saying ‘I want a sidewalk.’ It’s more complicated.”

“It’s really a full-time job,” said Selectwoman Darlene Sanborn.

The five-person select board voted unanimously to hire Sterling. The town had not signed a contract with him by Thursday, Lunt said.

Reached for comment last week, Sterling said he’s “pleased” about the opportunity to market a small town like Monmouth, but declined to offer specifics about his responsibilities until he had more time to speak with Lunt.

The economic development committee has considered hiring a consultant for more than a year, said Timothy McDonald, a selectman who also serves as chairman of the development committee. He pointed out that towns and cities such as Gardiner have designated economic development workers.

“The volunteers do great work, but sometimes you need a little extra help,” he said.

There are several economic development projects already in the works in Monmouth, and some that are in the pipeline. Those projects include expanding the changing rooms at the town beach; adding bathrooms and an entertainment pavilion at the town beach; and improving the appearance of older, more distressed properties along Main Street.

Monmouth also established a downtown TIF district in 2013 and expanded it by nearly 100 acres last year, an arrangement that local officials hope will attract more businesses to town and generate more income for downtown improvements.

After Central Maine Power constructed a substation and line expansion in the TIF district several years ago, the town was able to divert half its tax revenue into an account specially created for economic development purposes. Local business Chalky & Co. plans to build an expansion facility in the TIF district, McDonald said, and officials hope that more will follow.

“We’ve looked around and tried to see what it would take to get businesses here,” McDonald said. “We looked at different assets, and the committee think it’s time that we got a little more active with someone that will be more focused on it, that can put in more time.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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