A well-distanced Oakland Town Council meets Wednesday at the fire station. Greg Levinsky/Morning Sentinel

OAKLAND — The Oakland Town Council discussed options Wednesday night for increasing business activity in an effort to “fix” the downtown area.

Among the options, town officials and councilors are weighing the benefits of additional tax increment financing districts.

During the meeting at the town’s new fire station, Shawna Cook-Mueller of the law firm Bernstein Shur explained how tax increment financing works.

Tax increment financing districts, known as TIFs, subsidize businesses or companies by forgiving, refunding or diverting some or all of their taxes to help finance development.

TIFs can be used to freeze assessed property values in certain areas for a set period to shelter increases in valuation from state and county assessments.

As properties in a TIF district are improved and local valuations increase, a portion of tax revenue is diverted to the TIF fund for future improvement projects.

TIFs also require a development program, and applications are reviewed by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

“The goal in my head that I’ve got is to fix the downtown,” Oakland Town Manager Gary Bowman told the council. “This would allow us to shelter that money to use in those types of projects.”

A downtown tax increment financing district would be the third TIF in Oakland.

Downtown TIFs require municipal officials to create a specific planning document that must be approved, along with the development program.

“Particularly, it’s a redevelopment effort,” Cook-Mueller told town councilors. “A planning effort is really helpful. You can really create what your goals are.”

There also must be a public hearing before taking the plan to the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

In other matters, Bowman asked the council’s approval to close the Town Office on Nov. 3 — Election Day — because employees will be staffing the polls. He also recommended keeping the Town Office closed the day after the election.

“There’s a concern we may end up doing an all-nighter on Nov. 3,” Bowman said. “We’d like to have that option available to us, if at all possible.”

Employees at the Town Office have fielded more than 850 requests for absentee ballots, according to Bowman. A special box has been ordered for the Town Office so residents can drop off absentee ballots.

In-person voting is set for the Oakland Fire Station on Fairfield Street, but residents are encouraged to vote absentee.

In some elections, more than 300 town residents have registered to vote on-site, according to Bowman.

“If they don’t want to stand in a long line, they should be encouraged to be registered to vote” ahead of time, council member Bob Nutting said.


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