Plans in the works to revitalize Paris

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PARIS — The ad hoc Paris Revitalization Committee wants to keep the momentum going with the town’s recently adopted Strategic Plan and asked town officials last week which projects the town would take on and which the committee and volunteers should tackle.

A handful of business owners and committee members attended the selectmen’s meeting on Monday, March 9, and each took a turn introducing themselves, including resident Jeannie Stone who formed the committee roughly a year and a half ago.

“I’d really like to see projects from the Strategic Plan move forward,” she said, noting it’s important to emphasis the positive aspects of the plan and town.

Attorney Sarah Glynn handed members of the board a list of projects that were split into three categories — commercial growth, community growth and area beautification. Some of the projects suggested either the town or the committee or a non-municipal organization take the lead on them.

Recommended projects for the town included identifying tax incentives to entice new businesses in Paris, working with state officials to earn the “Open for Business” designation and conducting a study of other property along the Route 26 North corridor and identify funding sources for the study. Projects the committee or other organizations could address include developing partnerships to attract new families and establishing a core network to provide services for seniors.

The latter is something that is near and dear to Glynn’s heart. At last week’s meeting and a recent committee meeting, she spoke about championing the plan’s recommendation to establish a senior center.

“I would really like to see Paris have a senior center because we are lacking that,” she said, adding that many senior citizens don’t have strong or regular connections to the outside world, which could be changed with such a center.

Glynn said that she and her law partner, Linda Russell, toured the senior center in Wells, where she said the land was donated and nearly $1 million was raised for the facility, some of which came from selling windows and doors in the building.

Glynn also asked the town to participate in an AARP/World Health Organization study, which would establish a five-year plan on how to help senior citizens age in place.

“Some people want to stay in their homes,” she said.

Selectmen unanimously gave approval for Town Manager Amy Bernard to send a letter saying Paris wanted to participate in the study.

Revitalization Committee members asked about the status of the town reacquiring the Paris Utility District building and seven acres of land at 1 Paris Hill Road to turn it into a park and recreational space. Bernard said the proposal for the PUD and town to sign a 15-year conservation lease went out to the state Public Utilities Commission in January. The PUC needs to sign off on the agreement before it can move forward, which she said would take between three and six months.

Committee members also asked if the town needed assistance in applying for the grant money from the Maine Heritage Fund to create a public boat launch at the PUD property. Bernard said she would accept assistance from anyone who knew more about writing grants than her, and that the committee should keep town officials in the loop on any grants or projects they’re working on.

“What is the long-term cost to the town? That’s what I looked at when it comes to accepting grants,” Selectmen Vice Chair Robert Wessels said.

Selectmen plan to discuss the projects further at their next meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, March 23, at the Town Office, 33 Market Square.

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