SKOWHEGAN — The landmark brick and granite building at the corner of Madison Avenue and Elm Street soon will have a new occupant.

The former Miles F. Carpenter Insurance Co. building will become the new home of Somerset Public Health, a coalition working to promote healthier lifestyles and fight chronic disease in Somerset County. The organization will occupy all of the first floor and part of the second floor of the building, built sometime before 1900.

The third floor of the three-story building, once home to the Skowhegan Business School and Beal College, remains as it was in the 1970s, with tin ceilings, window transoms, wooden floors and high windows overlooking downtown Skowhegan and the winding Kennebec River to the east.

Sam Hight, along with cousins Toby and Corey Hight, doing business as Hight Properties, bought the building in September from Chuck Carpenter, whose family had operated an insurance business at the location since 1927. The company merged with Keyes Insurance a couple of years ago.

“We obviously look at it every day because we’re over at the (Hight’s) Chevy garage,” Sam Hight said. “It’s a pretty prominent corner building in town that everyone considers the Carpenter Building. It probably forever will be the Carpenter Building.”

Hight would not disclose the details of the purchase and sale, noting only that he and Chuck Carpenter “agreed on a fair price.”

Matt L’Italien, director at Somerset Public Health, said the agency, with 14 employees, will occupy the nine offices and five conference rooms in the building.

“Somerset Public Health is a department of Redington-Fairview General Hospital, and we’re a community health coalition,” L’Italien said. “We work with communities in Somerset County and with organizations and leaders in those communities to effect public health changes, and those changes really focus on substance use prevention, obesity prevention and aging in place projects.”

He said most staff members are community health educators who visit area towns and schools. The coalition was established in 2001. Its goals include improving nutrition, increasing physical activity, stopping tobacco use, preventing drug abuse and promoting the responsible use of alcohol.

They advocate using local walking trails for exercise, using stairs instead of an elevator, eating good meals, and in schools, not using food as a reward for academic achievement or behavioral success.

L’Italien said the group works with schools, child care centers and other service providers in the communities.

“Basically what we’re looking at are policies that can be changed in the community to make the default choice be a little bit healthier,” he said. “The federal government has set standards for the food that is served in schools, so what we do is take those standards, interpret them and work with schools to help them figure out to implement the changes.”

Somerset Public Health provides training and technical assistance for school nutrition staff and directors to get reimbursement rates up and community eligibility benefits for free lunch and breakfast.

The Hight Properties group will continue to bring the building up to code and make repairs, but Sam Hight said the building is in remarkably good shape for a structure that was built during a time when no fewer than four swank hotels dotted that area of Skowhegan.

The building itself was home to a restaurant and an ice cream parlor around the turn of the last century.

L’Italien said the hospital will be responsible for updating data lines inside the building, with a planned move into the new quarters by the end of November or the beginning of December.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]



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