Presque Isle officials note economic, downtown development as possible goals for 2019

5 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — During an informal workshop at the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library on March 21, Presque Isle city councilors discussed with various city department officials what initiatives they would like to see the council adopt as formal goals for the year.

Councilors asked each department head to speak for three minutes on what specific goals they have in mind. Many officials noted economic development and further downtown revitalization as goals to consider.

Kim Smith, Presque Isle’s resource developer, public information officer and city liaison for the Downtown Revitalization Committee, voiced her support for continued investment in popular events such as the Rockin on Riverside summer concert series and Movies in the Park. She also would like to create focus groups that would meet with seniors to receive their input on how the city can take advantage of its official age-friendly community status.

In May 2018, Presque Isle joined about 50 municipalities across the state certified by AARP Maine as age-friendly communities. The status allows communities to apply for small grants that help invest in infrastructure, transportation and implementation costs associated with new programs. Organizers have two years from their date of certification to submit an official plan of action to AARP Maine on how they plan to increase senior citizen engagement.

“We have many people who are willing to partner with us such as the hospital’s Healthy Aging program, ACAP’s Going Places taskforce, and the Downtown Revitalization Committee,” Smith said.

Smith also announced that the Maine State Bicentennial Committee has chosen Presque Isle as the official site for the kickoff celebration of the state’s 200th anniversary on July 26, 2019. Gov. Janet Mills is expected to appear at the celebration before visiting other communities across the state for similar celebrations.

As 2020 gets closer, Smith said she will further communicate with the bicentennial committee to discuss formal plans. She noted that state officials already have suggested planting trees on an important community property as part of the festivities.

“That’s something we could easily hold at the community center,” Smith said, referring to the Sargent Family Community Center near Riverside Drive.

In speaking about downtown development, Recreation and Parks Director Chris Beaulieu mentioned his goals of extending the bike path near the community center and further promoting the new playground and splash pad located across the street on Riverside Drive. Although the splash pad opened just in time for summer last June, the playground grand opening did not occur until early September due to delays in equipment delivery and installation.

Councilor Kevin Freeman suggested that the city host an official celebration for the playground in late spring to kick off the first summer that it will be utilized.

“It seemed like right after the playground opened the snow came,” Freeman said. “Maybe we could partner with Rotary and Kiwanis to have some type of celebration to showcase that area around the playground and splash pad.”

City Manager Martin Puckett said he would like to make the city’s website more compatible for mobile devices, fix pages that contain outdated information, and redesign the site with the help of a web designer to better promote the city’s services and events.

He also expressed an interest in creating an official economic development program for Presque Isle, which would include the hiring of an economic development director.

“I think we need to look at how other communities define economic development and think about what it means for us,” Puckett said.

Council chair Mike Chasse agreed with Puckett and also suggested the city increase discussions on the fate of City Hall. Though councilors first voted to search for a new building in 2014, potential buyers of the current building have since backed out, leaving the councilors to debate whether they can feasibly invest thousands of dollars in much-needed repairs.

“I’ve had informal conversations with an architect that I know,” Chasse said. “He said that we might be able to fix the building so that it’s better for our employees. We’ve been talking about this for five years now and I think it’s time to make more serious decisions about city hall.”

The councilors will choose their official goals for the year after they have met with all city departments. Library Director Sonja Eyler and Planning and Development Director Ken Arndt were unable to attend the March 21 workshop.

The Presque Isle City Council will hold its next regular meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 at City Hall.