ELLSWORTH—On Aug. 2, city officials and staff from area businesses gathered on a bright, muggy afternoon to celebrate the completion of the Water Street parking lot. The project, a public-private endeavor financed by the businesses and the city, began earlier in the spring.
The city allocated up to $200,000 from a recently approved $1.1-million bond anticipation note to pay for its share of the project, and covered the cost of lighting and drainage for the entire lot. In all, the city paid around $138,000, according to City Manager David Cole. The rest of the funding came from private businesses.
A new pedestrian walkway in the alley leading to Main Street between Bud Connection and Frank Pierson Optician, flanked by lights and greenery, was praised by local business owner and longtime resident Ruth Foster.
“I’ve been stumbling through this little alley for 35 years,” said Foster, who thanked city officials and KJ Dugas Construction for the renovations.
Two-thirds of the lot, which is largely public parking, is owned by the city, while the rest is owned by private businesses. Since municipalities are forbidden by law from making alterations to or paying for work done on private property, city officials offered businesses a “volume rate” to make improvements to their lots. There was no obligation to participate, said Cole, and the city committed to work with businesses on financing plans if need be.
The cost to each business was determined by the lot size. Earlier projections put Eyes, P.A. paying the greatest share after the city, around $50,000. The American’s share came in at around $14,000.
In light of the upgrades to the parking lot, owner and publisher of The American Alan Baker donated part of the lot back to the city. The donated portion, which had been public parking maintained by the city, was purchased by the company for $15,000 in the mid-1990s in order to comply with an ordinance requiring a certain lot-to-building size ratio. The city amended the ordinance in 2012, reducing the required lot-to-building ratio to zero in an effort to encourage development and density downtown.