Posted by: Greg LeMieux
All I can say is it feels great being out on our own! These past two days, TeamMaine has met with some of Biddeford’s most exciting and interesting community workers! While we have finally gotten our foot in the door by making contacts and arranging meetings, none of this would be possible without the amazing help we have received from Bill Durkin. As most of our events were planned for later in the week, Bill worked his magic and landed us a tour with Doug Sanford, the owner and re-developer of the extensive Pepperell Mill (also known as the North Dam Mills) complex, a complex encompassing a total area of over 1,000,000 square ft. As manufacturing and production within the mills came to an end, in 2004, Sanford purchased three of the buildings on campus and turned them into a mixed use building. When he purchased the rest ofthe complex at the end of the decade, he could finally continue to expand his vision of creating a “city within a city”.
Luckily,Team Maine was given a tour of the massive facility. Some of the tools and devices used for production were still in place, allowing us to fantasize about what the mill had looked like during the early 1900’s. The mills were in pristine condition, and we were fortunate to see parts of the mill uncommonly seen by humans (most notably the underground canals). He also gave us his proposal touse the water responsible for cooling the nearby MERC Incinerator Plant as geothermal energy, which would power the entire complex.
Today we met with Greg Tansley and Brian Phinney. Greg is the city planner for Biddeford and Brian Phinney works on environmental regulations and codes for the city. It was interesting to learn about the different initiatives and road blocks that are keeping the city from improving it’s strive towards sustainability (such as a lack of funding and short terms for council members). However, there have been successes. Biddeford will be starting on the Saco River Walk Project, which will provide pedestrian and bike friendly paths along the river, allowing the public to view the intense falls and rapids previously used to power the mills. A few years ago, an ordinance was passed to allow households to use wind mills and solar panels for their own personal energy source. Both also addressed the issues the MERC plant is facing and their hopes for the relocation of the facility away from the city.
As for now, some of us are going on a community bike ride and some of us are meeting with the campus planner for the University of New England. We’ll all wrap up the day with Music in the Park where we hope to continue to spread our message!