Written by Sheila Grant: DEXTER – Construction to convert the former Fossa building into a downtown farmer’s market and general store are on hold because no contractors submitted bids on the project by the June 22 deadline. Nine contractors had shown interesting in the project, attending a walk-through in May or contacting the town for details.
“It’s a very complex build in that it’s literally part of the next building,” said Judy Craig of the Dexter Regional Development Corporation, which is undertaking the project together with the town. “It’s a difficult project. It’s a very old building. It will mean a delay in the opening, unfortunately. It’s very disappointing. I’m answering to the farmers – we’ve lost one whole season now. I hope it doesn’t go into next season.”
Craig noted that most contractors did agree that it would cost more to tear the building down than to work with the existing structure. The goal is to create a market for locally-produced food items and other products. Farmers from several towns within a 25-mile radius are expressing interest. The store will carry meats, eggs, ice cream, cheese, dried beans, apples, fresh vegetables, bakery items and other local food items. There will also be a kitchen where cooking classes can be offered, and farmers can cook up new value-added products, such as turning berries to jam.
“Say we get a bunch of spinach,” Craig said. “We’ve got extra milk and cheese, so we can make a spinach pie to sell at the store.”
While coffee beans, for example, aren’t local, the majority of the products will be. One local planter put in more grains this year in the hope of selling through the store, and is also having sunflower oil pressed. This year the oil will be used for a fuel additive, but the plan is to have food-grade sunflower oil on the store shelves eventually.
The store will also have a 12 by 77-foot deck.
“It’s going to be the crown jewel,” Craig said. “We’re going to have “Meet the Farmer,” and mini-concerts and sales out there. This is not going to be just the storefront. We want it to be a destination and a meeting spot like it used to be in the old Fossa days. We want people to be comfortable browsing around, getting something to eat, and we want them to leave feeling like they just visited friends.”
The proposed project will cost more than $300,000. To date, the DRDC has received a $230,000 Community Development Block Grant, matched with $50,000 in DRDC funds. More applications are in the works to fund interior shelving, the kitchen and educational programs for farmers and the public once the store has opened. Volunteers have been working on the building for several months and have stripped the interior down to the studs.
“The volunteerism, the people stepping forward offering to do things is just unbelievable,” Craig said. In addition to local folks, work has been done by two crews from Charleston Correctional Center, and by volunteers from the Aspire program. Local businesses are stepping up, too. The old tin walls are being refurbished by Dexter Sandblasting for reuse on the new store walls. The deck is being built with lumber gotten at a deep discount from Yoder Lumber of Exeter.
Craig said the Maine Office of Community Development is working closely with the DRDC to make some of the contractor bid forms easier and less cumbersome. She is hopeful that next time, bids will come in.
“We’re going to put it out to rebid again,” Craig said. “We have a lot of very small, very talented contractors. There might be some magic happen and we still get it done this year.”
Meetings open to the public are held at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month in the Dexter Town Council chambers. For more information, call Craig at 924-3067 or visit www.dexterfarmproject.com."This content originally appeared as a copyrighted article in the SVWeekly.com and is used here with permission."
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