Deschambault bills aid reinvestment in downtowns and riverfronts

Posted: January 09, 2018 | Senator Deschambault

Sen. Susan Deschambault, D-Biddeford, introduced two pieces of legislation which would encourage downtown and riverfront reinvestments by towns and cities through competitive grant programs.

The first bill, LD 319, “An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for Riverfront Community Development” would provide funds to cities and towns from a $25 million bond through grants for projects along Maine’s rivers that contribute to economic, environmental, and community development, revitalization, promote economic activity, protect the environment, and enhance Mainers’ quality of life.

The second bill, LD 955, “An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Recapitalize the Municipal Investment Trust Fund,” would provide funds to recapitalize the Municipal Investment Trust Fund, from which towns and cities could apply for grants to help fund investments in public facilities and infrastructure.

In past years, Biddeford has utilized the Riverfront Community Development grant money to help with creation of the riverwalk and redevelopment of the North Dam Mill. Additionally, the City has used grants from the Municipal Investment Trust fund to help finance downtown infrastructure and amenities improvements.

Both bills were the subject of a public hearing in the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee on January 9, 2018.

“The grants that these bond bills would provide are what has helped Biddeford bounce back from the loss of our mills,” said Sen. Deschambault. “We’ve rehabbed our downtown and cleaned up the river and now Biddeford is flourishing again. These grants would continue that revitalization here and kick off similar efforts in cities and towns across Maine.”

Representatives from Belfast, Biddeford, Saco, and Westbrook all spoke in favor of the bills.

“Saco successfully utilized the 2008 Riverfront Community Development Bond Program to assist us in hiring local contractors to complete a number of improvements to our riverfront,” said William Mann, Saco’s Economic Development Director. “We have identified additional opportunities for growth along our riverfront… we anticipate that development could result in more than $30 million in private investments. These redevelopment activities that will benefit our community are more likely to be made possible with the support from this proposed bond.”

“The initial capitalization of $4.9 million of the Riverfront Community Development Bond (RCDB) participated in a total of $41.7 million in 14 communities from York County to Aroostook County,” said Daniel Stevenson, Westbrook’s Community Economic Development Director. “This equates to a 7.5:1 leverage… these dollars were invested well.”

LD 319 and LD 955 face further action in the Appropriations and Financial Affair Committee and votes in the House and Senate.