HOULTON – The start of another year is just a few months away, but the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce already has made a new beginning.
In June, they were given a new office building, thanks to a donation from Ward Cedar Log Homes of Houlton.
Earlier this week, a new leader, Laurie Weston, began working as the Chamber’s executive director.
Despite all that is new, however, the organization is still plagued by an old challenge – finding a permanent location for its recently donated facility.
After years of working inside a stark, confined office in the town’s historic White Building, the Chamber decided in February to start searching for a new home.
While the cedar building kit has been donated, the Chamber has to come up with an estimated $90,000 to erect the structure and outfit it with necessities such as plumbing and electricity.
After they received word of the building donation, Chamber officials initially speculated that they would construct the office on a plot of land in Riverfront Park. The land is tucked just off North Street in a niche within site of the town’s pedestrian footbridge.
The land adjacent to the bridge is also slated to be the site of a park and recreational walking trails, however, and Chamber officials have since learned that regulations surrounding grant money that is helping to support the park’s creation would prohibit the building from being there.
Chuck Ames, president of the Chamber’s board of directors, said that the organization could have constructed the building on land a short distance away from the original site, but the location would have put them in a flood zone.
“Obviously, that’s not feasible,” Ames said. “So we have been looking for another place, and we are hoping to work with the town to find a new site that is very close to the downtown.”
The new facility is expected to include an administrative office and meeting rooms, a showroom and other amenities.
Town Manager Douglas Hazlett confirmed Tuesday that discussions with Chamber officials are ongoing.
Although Hazlett said that he could not yet elaborate on potential locations for the building, he stressed that it would not be located on the town’s recently acquired property at 1 Market Square.
The town bought the land, which sits at the mouth of Market Square, from former owner Donald Goodrich last month. Town officials have discussed the possibility of selling the land or fashioning it into a gateway to welcome visitors into Houlton’s historic downtown.
Both Ames and Hazlett speculated that more information about the Chamber’s potential location would be available in the near future.