Milo to vote on revised lease for Elaine’s Basket Cafe
MILO — At next year’s annual town meeting, set for the evening of Monday, March 12, 2024, Milo residents will be asked to vote on a revised lease for Elaine’s Basket Cafe. The decision to place the item on the warrant 5-plus months in advance and at a revised rate was approved during a special town meeting on Oct. 3.
Town Manager Robert Canney said after a select meeting a few months ago owner Elaine Poulin inquired about having her lease modified at the town-owned building at 38 Main Street.
Poulin told the audience at a public hearing prior to the special town meeting that she moved into the building in 2012. The structure was built with $500,000 in USDA funds awarded to Milo to rebuild following a fire in September 2008 that destroyed much of the downtown block of buildings.
Poulin said she offered to pay the property taxes on the building, in addition to the $1,200 monthly lease, after residents said they did not want their own taxes to go up. She said she is getting up in age and is thinking of potentially selling her business and thinks a new owner would not want to pay taxes on a building they do not own.
Poulin most recently paid $5,855 in annual taxes. The assessed value of the building is $239,100 and the larger property is assessed at $539,000. The lease runs through next February.
“So that’s the reason I came to the town to have it changed,” Poulin said.
She said she opened a restaurant just down the street in 2007 and later transitioned to selling baked goods, with donuts, whoopie pies, and more being distributed across more than 80 convenience stores in Maine and New Hampshire and potentially soon in Vermont and New York.
“So part of the agreement from the start was Elaine pays the taxes as assessed on the property plus a lease,” Canney said. “In the original lease agreement, in the subsequent lease agreements, we have capped it at 50 cents per square foot. The building’s a little over 1,800 square feet of usable space.”
He said the town worked with DeWitt-Jones Realty to get an idea of commercial lease rates in town and the business provided a half dozen prices. “The upper end was $1,700 a month and the lower end was $550 a month,” the town manager said. He said the size ranged from 5,000 to 1,000 square feet so the average lease was $737 or 50 cents a square foot.
“So Elaine has asked us to modify the lease so she no longer has to pay the taxes,” Canney said, saying the location of Elaine’s Basket Cafe is the only town-owned building that is leased out.
“The reason taxes were part of the agreement is because that’s 1,800 square feet of prime real estate on Main Street,” he said, as otherwise the town would not receive any income from the property. The town manager said lease payments go into a building capital account to fund maintenance and repairs.
So far the structure has not needed much upkeep, an older heat pump has been replaced.
When asked, Poulin said she has 10 employees and most live in Milo.
During the ensuing select meeting, the board approved the low bid of $120,285 from Street’s Landscape & Lawn Care of Old Town for the downtown municipal parking lot upgrades including redoing the surface and clearing defining the space from an adjacent street leading to an apartment building. The other bid from Northeast Paving came in at $156,726.
Much of the funding for the project comes from a downtown revitalization grant, with an approximate combined $125,000 between a grant and town contribution. In the spring the select board opted to use $31,250 in ARPA funds to cover its 25 percent share of the $125,000.
Canney said he will have an update on the project at the next select meeting (moved back a week to Tuesday, Nov. 14 on account of the election). He said he would like the work to be done this year but that may not happen given the calendar
The town manager said he is looking to schedule the next meeting with Plymouth Engineering on the public safety building.
The town is currently in the early planning stages of a new building to house the fire, police, and public works departments. The community can spend up to $6,375,000 in USDA funds for the public safety building, which is being planned for near the business park and across the road from the Milo Water District office less than a mile up Park Street from the 100-year-old town hall where the fire and police departments are currently located.
“One important thing that’s in the works right now is an assessment for the land,’ Canney said.”We basically have to do an environmental survey. So I’ve applied for a grant through PCEDC through the brownfield grant program for an assessment. Otherwise it would have to come out of the $6.3 million we got for the building.”
He said the survey would only cost a few thousand dollars, but a grant would save some money. Canney said he should know the status of this by next month’s select meeting.
The Milo fire and police departments and Three Rivers Ambulance are working to raise funds to add a wing to the the Veterans Memorial at Evergreen Cemetery in Milo
“There’s going to be three big monuments with a pathway leading it just like the veterans with stones and pavers to recognize those who served the community,” Canney said. He mentioned about half of the $28,000 has been raised so far.
“We recognize the veterans every day and every town does but not many towns recognize and honor the first responders,” the town manager said. “They protect the community and serve the community.”
“I think it will look amazing and be an amazing addition,” Canney said.