SKOWHEGAN — Paul York was elected by the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen as its new chairman Tuesday night, as officials welcomed Gene Rouse, a longtime community volunteer who was elected June 13 to a three-year term on the board. York also is the new finance director.

Selectwoman Darla Pickett was elected vice chairwoman of the board and deputy finance director.

Developer Dana Cassidy, who bought the 21-acre Skowhegan Village shopping plaza on outer Madison Avenue in October told the board he intends to turn the former Spice of Life natural foods store into a commercial laundromat. He appealed to the board Tuesday to give him a break on the nearly $37,000 fee to hook into the town sewer line. The new place is to have 16 commercial washing machines and 16 commercial dryers.

Skowhegan Code Enforcement Officer Randy Gray told Cassidy in a letter dated June 9 that it was going to cost him $36,625 in a capacity reserve fee to the town to hook up the proposed laundromat to the town sewer system. Cassidy said before Tuesday night’s meeting that he hoped to “mitigate” that fee.

He said he will do the work on the building himself and sees the laundromat as a plaza magnet, along with the Subway sandwich shop, the new Miller Fitness gymnasium, the Beauty by Design salon and the Family Pet Connection.

“I’m doing it as a catalyst to excite the rest of the tenants, the rest of the center, the city as a whole for perpetual traffic,” he said. “It’s sustenance for the center — all day, every day. It brings people in and when they’re there, they eat, do their laundry or they may go to the gym or buy pet supplies.”

Selectmen and Gray discussed the request but told Cassidy that the fee was a one-time cost and is controlled by town ordinance. There would be no sewer fees after that, they said.

Cassidy said he already has invested $2 million into the plaza and it would cost him about $400,000 to finish the laundromat and hoped for a deal of some kind or he could take his idea to one of his seven other plazas in Maine.

Selectmen said the town is business-friendly and agreed to let Cassidy and Gray work out a payment plan over time to lessen the burden of a one-time cost. The board voted 5-0 to instruct Gray and Cassidy to work out a contract and bring it back to the board and to the town’s attorney for review.

Spice of Life vacated the building this year. The store first opened in 1992 on Water Street and moved to the plaza in 2012. The Napa Auto Parts store moved this year from the plaza to downtown Skowhegan. Cassidy said he has a potential tenant for the former Napa store.

Selectmen also voted to allow the new Opera House Committee to send out requests for proposals for renovation plans for the 850-seat opera house, built in 1909. Jon Kimbell, the longtime artistic director at the North Shore Music Theater, near Boston, and founding member of the new Miller’s Table at Maine Grains restaurant, announced the formation of the committee in April.

Kimbell, chairman of the Somerset Cultural Planning Committee, funded a survey to see what is needed to bring people back to the venue. The committee thinks the requests for proposals will be a first step before they can start fundraising, once the general cost of the plan is known.

Renovation is to include:

• Installing heat and air conditioning.

• Creation of sound insulation between the performance area, which is upstairs, and the town’s municipal offices on the ground floor.

• Installing public restrooms in the opera house lobby.

• Building backstage restrooms and dressing rooms.

• Putting in a quality sound and light system that will meet the needs of simple productions.

• Building an elevator to move heavy equipment to and from the stage area.

• Building a public elevator that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Requests for proposals are due by 1 p.m. Aug. 1 at the town manager’s office. Questions about the project should be addressed to Jeff Hewett, the town’s director of economic and community development.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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