August 23, 2019

Terms of Ayers Island sale on Orono slate

ORONO – Town officials will meet today to discuss with an attorney the potential sale of Ayers Island.

University of Maine professor George Markowsky has a lease-purchase agreement with the town for the 62-acre island where he hopes to build a research and development park. According to the terms of the five-year lease, Markowsky sent the town a check for $100 on Dec. 31 with a one-line letter expressing his intent to buy the island.

“Right now, we’re at the point where we can go out and look for financing,” Markowsky said Monday. “It’s hard to borrow money when you don’t have ownership.”

Councilors will hold a special council meeting at 4:15 p.m. today in council chambers to discuss whether lease requirements have been fulfilled.

The town took over the island and the former Striar Textile Mill in 1999 on expired sewer and tax liens and then leased it for $100 for a five-year term to Ayers Island LLC, a company owned by Markowsky.

The lease stated that Markowsky could purchase the island during the lease, and that both he and the town would have to meet certain requirements. Those requirements appear to have been met, according to Town Manager Gerry Kempen.

Under the lease, Markowsky was required to pay taxes and insurance on the property and help move the deed through the court system to assure that no one had an outstanding interest in the island, Kempen said Monday.

In addition, Markowsky was required to invest $100,000 in improvements to the island and re-invest his first $500,000 in profits into capital improvements, Kempen said.

Markowsky said Tuesday he has invested roughly $400,000 into the island although the development hasn’t realized any profits yet. He also has maintained the gate to the island and boarded up the defunct mill to protect it from intruders.

“Part of today’s process will be getting documentation,” Kempen said.

As part of the lease agreement, the town was required to make a good faith effort to find funding to replace the bridge to the island, Kempen said. Previously estimated at 100 years old, the 627-foot bridge has only one lane. The town has received grants and verbal commitments for $850,000 and has appropriated $150,000 for a potential replacement that could cost between $2.3 million and $2.8 million.

An attorney will review lease obligations at today’s meeting, Kempen said. No vote will be taken, but councilors plan to enter an executive session to discuss the sale with the attorney. If the council is in favor of the sale, a motion potentially could end up on the agenda for the February council meeting, Kempen said.

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