HOULTON, Maine — Should the town of Houlton continue operating a Tourist Information Center?
That is the question members of the Houlton Town Council will wrestle with when the board meets Monday, Dec. 14, for its regular meeting.
The agenda for that council meeting, which was released Thursday, indicates that public comment is sought on whether the town should market and sell the Rest Area/Visitors
Information Center located at 28 Ludlow Road, near the entrance to Interstate 95.
Nine years ago, Houlton took ownership of the center after Maine Department of Transportation officials announced they were considering closing it in order to save money. Costs to maintain the center proved to be higher than officials expected at roughly $40,000 per year.
For at least the past five years, the town has received financial assistance in maintaining the property from the Maine Office of Tourism, Aroostook County and the Maine Department of Transportation, which means no direct taxpayer dollars were used.
The Houlton parcel, including eight acres and a 2,000-square-foot log building, is valued at $763,500, according to the town’s property tax maps. The actual building is only valued at $172,900.
Currently, the town owns the property by virtue of a “Governor’s Deed” from the state. Therefore, it is not considered a taxable property. The only way to sell the property would be for the town to purchase the land from the state and then flip it to a new buyer.
Initially, town leaders wanted any prospective purchaser to continue to maintain the 900-square-foot tourist information center located inside the building or to include a space for the center in any future construction plans.
That requirement proved tricky, resulting in no buyers for the past three years.
Those who wish to provide comments on the matter may do so by emailing Town Clerk Cathy O’Leary at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those comments will be read during the council meeting. Members of the public may also participate in the meeting via Zoom, an online video chat program, by typing in the ID: 817 0181 9387 and using the passcode: 687083 on Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m.
Since the onset of COVID-19 in March, town council meetings have been closed to in-person attendance. The only way for the public to participate is through the Zoom application.