Opinion

Fighting blight takes a village

Everyone has a role in fighting blight in Caribou. The easiest way is to keep your own property in good repair and free from rubbish and fire hazards. Neighborhood pride is contagious. 

When citizens work together toward common goals and interests, it builds a stronger, more empowered community. What about the vacant house next door or a property that has fallen into a state of disrepair? The city of Caribou has several tools in the blight toolkit that might be able to help. City leadership is sincerely committed to the elimination of blighted properties and the restoration of community vitality and this is evidenced by several important March activities.

The March 8 City Council meeting will include a public hearing to determine if several buildings within the city meet the statutory requirements of a nuisance or dangerous building. The ‘Dangerous Building Statute’ (17 MRS 2851-2859) is a regulatory tool that municipalities may use to clean up blight and recover expenses incurred by employing this technique. If such a determination is made, the council may order appropriate corrective action, which may include demolition and removal of the building. If you have input for the public hearing, please send comments to Caribou City Clerk Danielle Brissette prior to 4:30 pm on March 8 or contact City Manager Dennis Marker about connecting to the meeting via Zoom.

The deadline to apply for the Facade Improvement Grant is Monday, March 15, at 5 p.m. City leaders and staff want to collaborate with you to grow your business and right now there is an opportunity to participate in a public-private partnership to improve the curb appeal of commercial and mixed-use properties through the city of Caribou Facade Improvement Grant Program. The grant is financed through funds collected in the city’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts. This program is structured as a 50/50 matching grant to fund improvements that are visible from the street. This is an annual competitive application process, in which grant recipients will be reimbursed up to $7,500 for the cost of eligible project expenses after the work is complete. 

Additional information, program requirements and the application can be found online. The application packet must include all relevant information about the proposed project and costs as well as photos and design drawings. This unique tool to improve the outward appearance of buildings in the local business districts help in the blight fight by encouraging further investment in the community. All economic development efforts are enhanced when existing and potential business owners witness Caribou’s community pride.  

On Wednesday, March 10, and Wednesday, March 24, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Caribou Wellness Center at 55 Bennett Drive, I will be hosting two property tax outreach sessions to be available to answer your questions about exemptions, business personal property or anything related to the work of this department.  As always, if you have questions about dangerous buildings, permits, exemptions, or your property value, please email me at pthompson@cariboumaine.org or call me at 207-493-5961 (my direct line). 

I am grateful every day to be in your service.

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