June 16, 2019

Cultural center making progress, supporters say

MILLINOCKET – Katahdin Cultural Center proponents hope to break ground on the project’s next phase – $600,000 of roof, facade and first-floor work – by Sept. 1, with doors opening in early 2007, they said Friday.

A key component, organizers Guilds Hollowell and Marsha Donahue said, is a $600,000 bank loan that will fund the work and complement $157,000 in collectible pledges the group has secured. If all goes well, the group will hear in mid-July whether it got the loan, he said.

The loan will not finish renovations at the Penobscot Avenue storefront, but it will make operational much of the first floor, including a proposed retail center, organizers said. They project raising $1 million and finishing the center in three to five years, including a two-year, $150,000 annual operating budget.

“I see it showing off the community’s best side and supporting the activities we already do,” Donahue said Friday. “We need to turn things around so that people are coming here and that entertainers are coming here instead of the other way around.”

Hollowell, the proposed nonprofit center’s interim director, said he understood how resident Alyce Maragus questioned the propriety of his use of a cultural center e-mail for an apparent for-profit enterprise, Maplewoods Properties of Millinocket.

Hollowell uses several e-mail addresses and said he erred in listing his Katahdin center e-mail on the Maplewoods Web site.

With almost a year since any significant renovation has occurred at the storefront, some residents and town councilors call the gutted building an eyesore, doubt the project’s viability and question the sincerity of its leading advocates – a view Hollowell sympathizes with.

In the Katahdin region, some people are skeptical and “would have to see something before they would buy into it,” he said.

Donahue said she was miffed. She said the project’s critics are a handful of people trying to undermine the center. A strong majority of townspeople, she said, support the project.

“There is nothing shady going on here,” said Donahue, chairwoman of the cultural center’s board of directors and owner of North Light Gallery. “We are trying to do this in an above-board manner, and I think it’s a waste of time to say otherwise.”

Center proponents will explain the project during a council meeting July 13, Hollowell and Donahue said. They will seek a state Department of Economic and Community Development special projects grant to secure a wheelchair lift, he said.

The group has nonprofit status with Katahdin Cultural Center Inc., established a Web site, katahdinculture.com, and an endowment fund, said Hollowell and Don Kasko, president of Katahdin Federal Credit Bureau and a member of the board of directors.

The purchase and gutting of the building and removal of nine tons of debris, brick and concrete a year ago, plus other structural improvements, was paid for with a $120,000 loan from Bangor Savings Bank and a $30,000 council appropriation, Hollowell said, although his Web site lists it as a $200,000 loan.

Future fundraisers include folk performer Dave Mallett’s concert on July 1 at Stearns High School at 8 p.m.; a golf tournament at Hillcrest golf course July 29; and another concert Aug. 11.

Correction: This article ran on page C2 in the State edition.

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