Mt. Abram asks for support from Greenwood for $300,000 grant
Greenwood selectmen Tuesday agreed to provide a letter of intent as the first step to help Mt. Abram apply for a $300,000 state Community Development Block Grant. If approved, the grant would aid in a solar panel project, roadway and parking improvements, and energy plant extensions at the resort.
After the letter is received, the state program will decide whether to invite Mt. Abram to apply for the program.
If that happens, Greenwood residents would have to approve a formal application for the program because the funds would be channeled through the town.
The town could also run some financial risk if Mt. Abram did not meet all the requirements for an approved project.
Mathew Eddy, a consultant with Eaton Peabody of Augusta, is advising Mt. Abram as the resort works to develop its property. He presented the grant proposal to the board.
The solar project would make Mt. Abram energy self-sufficient and reduce operating costs, Eddy said.
The total estimated project cost to which the grant would be applied is $600,000, he said.
“The primary risk to the community is the creation of permanent jobs,” he said.
Approximately one job would have to be created for every $30,000 of grant money. If enough jobs are not created, he said, the grant program could require the funds be repaid.
He said there are five current part-time jobs, and if approved the grant would create five permanent, nine-month jobs, “hopefully to grow to year-round.” Other jobs could be a combination of part-time jobs that would be full-time equivalent jobs.
Eddy said precise details on the job creation plan would be available at a town meeting held to consider the proposal.
“They have to show they can create those jobs. Ifthey don’t create those jobs, you could conceivably be at risk to pay the money back, and we don’t want you to be in that situation.”
But, he said, an arrangement could be made under which Mt. Abram would guarantee “to cover that if they fail to create the jobs, so the incentive is theirs.”
He said the resort could lower its grant request if the job creation goal does not seem feasible.
“We know we’ll have five jobs, what we’re looking for is how to figure out the other five.”
He said the solar panel project would require two or three people for maintenance.
Applications for the program begin March 1. The funds are not available until July 1.
Written background provided to selectmen described Mt. Abram’s recent and future development activities and plans:
“Mt. Abram is poised to both expand its core ski business and expand to provide year round recreation activities. Most recently, the mountain utilized an energy efficiency grant to upgrade its heating plant (self sustaining, wood pellets grown and harvested on site) and its snow making equipment, which includes substantial energy savings. The mountain has private equity commitments to install (permits in hand) a net meter solar panel system that will help it achieve true energy self sufficiency.
“Projects to upgrade overall operations include: Expand snow making ponds ($160,000); Development of a public water supply and fire suppression system ($300,000); Roadway and parking system improvements; Energy plant extension ($150,000); Howe Street improvements ($1 million; infrastructure project planned for next year); Trail system development ($150,000); Commercial timeshare condo units ($ unknown); Transit program ($250,000 annually); Solar panels ($1.2 m; $120,000 equity commitment, $500,000 private financing committed, $195,000 REAP application, $145,000 gap). This application focuses on solar panels, roadway and parking improvements, and energy plant extension.”
When the resort gets to some of the further development, such as the trails and condos, “the job creation will be more substantial over time,” Eddy said.
In response to a question from Selectman Arnie Jordan, Eddy said the resort would like to do paving improvements and drainage work on Howe Hill Road from the mountain to the Route 26 intersection. The funding would come from additional grant money, applied for in another phase next year, he said. “We would not be asking the community to put any money into it,” he said.
That application could involve an income survey on the Howe Hill Road to determine if at least 51 percent of the permanent residents qualify as low to moderate income.
Eddy said the resort wants to leverage more money “so they can really do what they want to do.”