2017-11-16 / Front Page

Signs in business, industrial parks need enhancement

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – The YMCA of Southern Maine hopes to increase its visibility on Route 111 while city officials consider updating signs throughout nearby business parks.

The Economic Improvement Commission approved the nationwide nonprofit to include its name on the Robert G. Dodge Business Park sign, but Director of Code Enforcement Roby Fecteau denied the request because the YMCA, located on Pomerleau Street, is not part of the neighboring industrial park. Economic Development Coordinator Brad Favreau said YMCA staff would like the sign to be visible from Route 111. The YMCA is listed on the Alfred Road Business Park sign, located on the corner of Pomerleau and Alfred streets.

Southern Maine Health Care has worked with Kennebunk based advertising agency Dietz Associates to look at sign placement at the Robert G. Dodge Business Park and come up with improvements to help people navigate the park more easily.

Jim Plamondon, Economic Improvement Commission chairman, said Dietz Associates did the work for the hospital for free, though the estimated cost from Dietz Associates for improved way-finding in the Robert G. Dodge Park was estimated at more than $200,000, Plamondon said. He said he expected the cost to be about half as much. The plan included upgrades to the Robert G. Dodge and Alfred Street Business Park signs and more signs with directions to each business within the parks. Plamondon said people have reported having difficulty knowing which medical building in the park they are supposed to go to.

“It came out over budget,” he said. “We will meet with them again. I would be willing to spend (money) but we’ll try to pick more important things and leave the rest. I don’t think it’s money well spent in the parks, if you will. Other expenses are more pressing. The Economic Improvement Commission isn’t ready to recommend that kind of sign package yet.”

While the Economic Improvement Commission is part of the Economic Development Department, it does not have a budget of its own. The Planning and Economic Development Department’s budget in fiscal year 2016 was $214,226.

Favreau will schedule a meeting between Dietz Associates and the Economic Improvement Commission before its next scheduled meeting in December and will post a new request-for-proposal by Dec. 1. The commission meets the first Wednesday of every month at 8 a.m. in council chambers.

Commission members would like to sell the three remaining vacant lots in the Robert G. Dodge Business Park. Funding for maintenance of the four industrial and business parks throughout Biddeford comes from the sale of city-owned land. The industrial park account has $291,178 in it currently. The economic development director will ultimately decide how the money is spent and funds for a possible revamp on signs would come from this fund. Brad Favreau is interim economic development director while the city’s personnel committee was scheduled to review a candidate for director Wednesday, Nov. 14. Former director Dan Stevenson left Biddeford in late October to take a similar position in Westbrook.

“We haven’t sold any lots in a while,” Plamondon said. “That reserve diminishes over time from the existing maintenance on the parks. Once we sell more land we’ll have more money. A lot of things need to be fixed and repaired. We continue to look at those things.”

The Biddeford Industrial Park, on Morin and Drapeau streets off Route 1, is scheduled for a repaving and sidewalk improvement project. Public Works Director Guy Casavant said about $700,000 worth of work is part of the capital improvement program budget for fiscal year 2019, but funding has not been allocated. Casavant didn’t expect work to begin for at least another year.

According to the city’s website, Biddeford’s four industrial and business parks have 66 businesses, employ more than 1,775 people, have a total combined property value of $85 million and contribute more than $1.56 million in property taxes every year. The parks were established between 1970 and 1984 for $2 million in federal grants and local bonds.

In 2015, GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc., a Portland based consulting firm, prepared the Thatcher Brook Watershed Management Plan which highlighted the condition of the watershed, pollutants found in it and an action plan for restoring its health. The Thatcher Brook Watershed extends from the Saco River to the Arundel town line. Increased development in the area was shown to have negatively impacted the watershed. As part of the efforts to improve water quality, Morin Street will be resurfaced and outfitted with a new drainage system to cleanse storm water before it enters the Thatcher Brook watershed.

“I don’t know when the last time it had any work done, it’s been quite a while,” Casavant said. “Biddeford Industrial Park is the next one for significant improvements.”

Contact staff writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

FMI

Biddeford has four industrial and business parks that employ nearly 2,000 people at 66 businesses.

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