By Diana Bowley, Of the NEWS Staff - DEXTER - Town Council members Thursday voted unanimously to forward a purchase and sale agreement to H.H.Brown Co.-Dexter Shoe Co. for the purchase of a company-owned building and surrounding land.
It was a year ago that the shoe company announced it would cease all manufacturing operations in Dexter by year-end 2001. The closure resulted in the loss of more than 700 jobs.
Since then, discussions have been going on between town and company officials regarding the $159,000 purchase of shoe company property on Water Street. The document signed Thursday is the first agreement on paper. It contains some changes in previous negotiations between company officials.
Although Dexter Shoe officials wanted to close on the building by Jan. 17, 2003, town officials have proposed a closing date of no later than March 17. That amount of time is needed because the town must secure federal and state funds for the purchase of the building, which necessitates environmental and engineering studies first, according to Town Manager Robert Simpson. The sale is contingent upon the grants, which were electronically submitted this week.
Town officials also had initially discussed a response date of one month, but this week decided to give the company until Sept. 23 to respond to their offer. It is now up to company officials whether or not to accept the terms provided in the counter-proposal submitted by the town.
"We're trying to posture ourselves so we will be ready to move when we get final [grant] approval," Simpson said Friday. If Dexter Shoe accepts the terms on the written agreement, a special council meeting will be called to sign the document, he said.
"It's a massive undertaking for a community of our size," the town manager said.
Simpson said he receives about one call a week from businesses inquiring about available properties. These inquiries are from small businesses in the northeast and in Maine that are interested in moving to the community. The fact that the town does not now have a building to offer them is a real stop to any business development, he said. Simpson said the town hopes to subdivide the building into three sections for the development of businesses.
Town officials hope to secure a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant for the purchase and renovation of the facility. They also hope to win an Economic Development Administration grant of about $100,000 for environmental studies and marketing.
The end result will help generate jobs for the region, help diversify the local economy and promote regional growth and stability, Simpson said.
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