2018-03-03 / Front Page

Proposed capital campaign to fund Biddeford clock tower repairs

Upgrades to City Theater and City Hall would also be funded
Associate Editor

BIDDEFORD — A proposed capital plan/fundraising program to raise about $11 million to pay for repairs and renovations to the clock tower on top of Biddeford City Hall, and other repairs to City Hall, and City Theater are on the Biddeford City Council agenda for their meeting on Tuesday.

About $2 million would be used for upgrades to City Hall, and the majority of that, about $1.7 million, would be used for the clock tower, Facilities Director Phil Radding said in a telephone interview on Friday. The remainder, around $9 million, would be spent on improvements to City Theater.

For a number of years, city officials have sought to find ways to fund repairs to the clock tower. Twice, bond referendums to pay to repair the clock have been placed on the ballot; residents voted them down both times.

Searching for grants to pay for improvements to the clock tower have also been unsuccessful, Radding said.

However, he said, grants are available to help pay for improvements to City Theater and by tying in the needs of the tower and other City Hall repairs, such grants could be used on those structures as well.

In addition to grant money, private funds would be sought. The city would likely hire a professional fundraiser to seek donations from local residents, businesses and others, Radding said.

The clock tower is structurally sound, Radding said. “We took care of that.” And pieces of brick are no longer falling off the tower — Radding used to keep a collection brick and other items that fell from the tower on his desk.

Some of the needed improvements include: repairing the weather vane, recladding the copper dome, rebuilding the clock, replacing the wood enclosing the clock and acquiring new railings.

Funds would also be used for new windows and a sprinkler system for City Hall as well as moving some of the offices around and rehabbing the third floor.

If the Biddeford City Council approves moving forward with a fundraising program, about $9 million would be used on renovations to City Theater, Radding said.

Improvements that would be funded include: upgrades to the reception area and bathrooms, dressing rooms, a scene construction/storage shop, loading dock and costume area, a stage fly system upgrade, ancillary supportive improvements and more.

“With this kind of project, we anticipate that substantial fund(s) will be raised from fundraising, a specific capital campaign, grant opportunities ( National Endowment for the Arts) and foundations (e.g.) Alfond), Economic and Community Development Director Mathew Eddy stated in a memo to Mayor Alan Casavant dated Friday. “We would like permission to establish (a) capital campaign committee and pursue funding with the intent of completing work in time for the theater to celebrate its 150-year birthday in 2021.”

— Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be reached at 2282-1535, ext. 324 of dmendros@journaltribune.com.

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