The entrance to FirstPark, off Kennedy Memorial Drive in Oakland, is shown in 2020. Twenty-four towns in the region are part of a partnership that has helped fund FirstPark operations over the years. One of those towns, Rome, has sought to withdraw from the partnership. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

The Kennebec Regional Development Authority on Thursday denied Rome’s request to withdraw from the organization so the town will remain obligated to continue paying annual assessments to the authority and its affiliate, the FirstPark business center in Oakland.

Certain criteria must be met if the authority’s governing body, known as the general assembly, is going to allow a member town to withdraw, and one of them is that FirstPark must first be able to stand on its own financially without the support of contributions from member towns. That is currently not the case.

In the 2021-22 fiscal year, FirstPark did not generate enough income to cover its operating costs without the contributions of the 24 member towns across central Maine.

As a result, the assembly decided to reject Rome’s attempt to withdraw as a member.

But the town was under the impression that it had satisfied the criteria for leaving — including that residents of a town must vote to withdraw, which Rome did in June 2021.

“I feel we’ve been terribly misled as a town,” Andy Cook, Rome’s representative to the authority, said after Thursday’s meeting. “If we follow the interpretation as presented (Thursday) … we can never get out.”


The town had sent a letter to the authority in September declaring its intention to leave.

“It’s kind of been a black hole for the town’s money,” Rome First Selectman Paul Andersen previously said.

The authority and FirstPark were established in 1997 and records show since that time Rome has paid $554,660 in assessments.

Other towns with a similar population to Rome, such as Smithfield and Solon, have paid far less — $211,959 and $163,408, respectively — in assessments.

The authority does share revenue each year with the member towns and Rome in June received a refund of $20,428.

Cook said authority Treasurer James Jurdak had previously told him that FirstPark had been able to “break even” and turn a profit, ending the year with an operating income of $56,535. Implying, in his mind, that all outstanding debt had been settled.


But authority officials said Thursday that without the continued assessments from member towns — which came to a total of $395,000 this year — they would have suffered a loss of $338,465 in the last fiscal year.

FirstPark sold four lots in the last fiscal year and there was discussion as to whether the financial benefit to the business park from those sales could be considered part of the authority’s operating income. But an analysis done by an auditor determined that it shouldn’t be.

The president of the general assembly, Michelle Flewelling, who’s also the town manager of Fairfield, said she’s open to revisiting the question of Rome leaving after the 2022-23 fiscal year, and is hopeful that eventually FirstPark will no longer rely on contributions from the member towns.

“If we keep selling lots, we may reach that sooner rather than later,” Flewelling said Thursday. Two lots in the business park were sold in November to Cincinnati-based Meyer Tool Co.

Rome said in its September letter that it will “decline to pay” any further assessments. Flewelling said this means any revenue the town would receive from FirstPark will be withheld until the assessment is paid.

Frustration was expressed Thursday over the ongoing disagreement between Rome and the authority.


“I believe wholeheartedly we should let Rome go,” said Terry Berry, Gardiner’s representative to the authority. “This is like a nasty divorce. The only ones who are going to win in the long run are the attorneys.”

Dwight Lanning, Benton’s representative, agreed. “It seems like we’re going to be taking Rome on quite the ride if we don’t sell a lot of property.”

Some representatives discussed amending the authority’s charter to allow for Rome to leave even if FirstPark is not yet financially self-sufficient. One member even suggested getting Rome to sue the authority, which Flewelling said Friday she doesn’t think is a good idea.

Flewelling said the legislative process to amend the charter would require approval from all 24 member municipalities, and Rome would need to begin such proceedings right away.

“We have to follow (the rules), and if we want the rules to be different, then the rules need to be changed.” Flewelling said.

Cook said Rome is unlikely to begin any legal proceedings.

“The town is not interested in litigating or creating tension,” he said Friday. “The town just wishes to withdraw and believes that it has.”

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