Full council approves Hilltop credit enhancement agreement
CARIBOU, Maine — Caribou City Council on Monday approved a credit enhancement agreement with Caribou Senior Living, LLC, a group of private investors who intend to convert the former Hilltop Elementary School into a senior home with over 35 bedrooms.
Councilors had voted June 11 to designate the former school, along with its surrounding 7.26 acres of land, as a TIF District. However, City Manager Dennis Marker recently indicated that the credit enhancement agreement is the “final instrument necessary to implement the TIF district” and contains numerous terms by which the city and developers have agreed.
Under the TIF agreement, the City will pay back 95 percent of property taxes to LLC so they can reinvest in the project over the course of 30 years. The company will pay taxes on materials within the facility.
Despite a 2-3 majority vote, the enhancement agreement failed during an August 13 meeting as two councilors were absent. A minimum of four votes from the seven-member council is required to take action.
City officials called the special meeting Monday, Aug. 20, to revisit the credit enhancement agreement with a full council. After some brief discussion, the agreement passed by a vote of 5-2.
Councilor Hugh Kirkpatrick asked several questions during the special session. He said while he is not opposed to the project in principal, he had some questions about the city’s procedure.
Kirkpatrick cited steps required for TIF implementation from the city’s TIF district information manual. Phases three through six are to schedule a workshop, review comments from said workshop, present findings to the council, who will take action on the agreement, and finally, for city officials to prepare and submit a final TIF application to state officials. He said he did not believe a workshop had occurred and asked if steps were followed in the correct order.
Mayor David Martin said the meetings and workshops occurred before Kirkpatrick joined the council, and initial discussion of the TIF District implementation occurred between developers behind Caribou Senior Living, LLC and members of the RSU 39 School District as part of the new Prek-8 school project.
Shawn Pelletier of Caribou Senior Living, LLC agreed, adding that discussion of converting Hilltop Elementary School into a senior living center began in the early phases of the school project.
The school itself is being conveyed to the LLC in return for numerous services related to the new school project, such as the demolition and asbestos abatement of the former Sincock School Building on Main Street. Land owned by Carl Soderberg, a member of the LLC, was also conveyed to RSU 39 to assist in a land swap necessary for the construction of the new school.
Martin says he feels confident that “we’ve done this all above board,” adding he is fine with the credit enhancement agreement as it stands.
Councilor Joan Theriault added that the city held a public hearing on June 11 before authorizing the TIF district, and that the city held a large meeting at the Wellness and Recreation Center three years ago in which city officials and members of Caribou Senior Living, LLC were present and discussed the project.
Councilor Phil McDonough moved to accept the credit enhancement agreement, which passed with Councilors Kirkpatrick and Mark Goughan opposed.