Governor Janet Mills visits Kingfield

6 mins read
Governor Janet Mills looks over the Carrabassett River while Jeffery Wallace from Maine DOT explains the erosion control measures that were taken on the riverbank alongside Route 27. (Annie Twitchell photo)

KINGFIELD — Governor Janet Mills spent Tuesday afternoon strolling Main Street in downtown Kingfield, touring the $9.2 million Route 27 Reconstruction Project and the Herbert Hotel. The Route 27 project involves repairing sections of Main Street to improve drainage, add new sidewalks, and increase traffic safety; the majority of the project should be complete by October 1.

The roadwork is part of the MaineDOT Western Gateways Project. This is a federal grant that is being used to revitalize state highways leading into the western mountains, which include several ski slopes. Three towns were selected for funding through the grant: Kingfield, Fryeburg, and Woodstock. The overall project includes reconstruction and rehabilitation of parts of highways 27, 302, and 26. Similar to the work in Kingfield, there is also sidewalk and shoulder improvements to provide safety and mobility for bicyclists and pedestrians as well as vehicle traffic.

Over the last few years the Kingfield Village Enhancement Committee worked with the select board to fund street lighting through the Poland Springs TIF. This $1 million project was added into the Route 27 project to establish attractive sidewalk lighting while reducing light pollution and enhancing the aesthetic appeal of Main Street.

The section of Route 27 around Riverside Cemetery and Lord’s Bridge has been a safety concern for years, with narrow shoulders and a steep bank to either side. The hazardous walking conditions have created a disconnect between the north end of the village and the south end but the sidewalk will help bridge the gap between the two sides of town, running from the intersection of High Street and Main Street to the area of the Woodsman Restaurant.

According to statistics from the governor’s office, Route 27 in Kingfield is traveled by 5,640 vehicles daily, with that estimated to increase to 6,770 by 2038. Approximately 12 percent of this traffic is trucks. Route 27 is an international travel route with truckers bringing wood products and other materials to and from Quebec through Stratton and the Coburn Gore border crossing.

While the road remains in rough condition during active work, the completed project is set to address numerous potholes, drainage issues, and weak side slopes. Last summer, work throughout the downtown area in the southern end of the village. This summer the focus is north of Riverside Cemetery and Lord’s Bridge. The northern end is set to be completed around October 1, while some cosmetic work on the sidewalks in the southern end of the village may not wrap up until summer 2023.

After hearing about the road revitilization, Governor Mills went on to find out more about the recent purchase of the Herbert Hotel by Sugarloaf. The mountain hosts 350,000 skiers and snowboarders annually and their recent acquisition of the historic Herbert Hotel has opened the doors for new partnerships and a close working relationship with Kingfield and neighboring communities.

Tuesday afternoon, Governor Mills toured the Herbert Hotel with Dana Clukey, Vice President of Lodging and Property Support for Sugarloaf.

“Stan and I used to come up for dinner on the weekend,” Mills said, admiring the historic architecture and the comfortable atmosphere in the lobby. Some of the furnishings will be sold with the help of a local antiques dealer, while others – such as a horsehair chair from the original owners of the hotel – will be donated to the Kingfield Historical Society.

Clukey, along with Tom Butler, explained their intentions for the building: rooms will be available for up to 50 employees on a weekly rental basis, with the rent drawn directly from the employee’s paycheck. There will be private and double rooms with a fridge and a microwave, while the conversation around a communal kitchen space.

The hotel is on the shuttle route from the mountain and there will be off-street parking available in the rear for employees. Sugarloaf is looking into RFID door access and an entrance at the rear of the building for security and easier access.

“I like the idea that you’re doing something downtown,” Mills said, noting that the central location of the hotel puts Sugarloaf employees in easy distance of the Mount Abram Regional Health Center, gas stations, stores, the pharmacy, the laundromat, and restaurants.

People coming to Maine and choosing to stay in Maine long-term is a good thing, Mills said, but the lack of affordable housing options and the limited inventory of houses on the market continues to present problems.

As such, large employers such as Sugarloaf and Saddleback are looking at housing options to ensure their employees have a roof over their heads because the options are so limited. Building new infrastructure will take two or three years before any new housing units are available, but the purchase of the Herbert Hotel will allow Sugarloaf to provide employee housing this fall.

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