|Caribou Municipal Building
25 High Street
Caribou, Maine 04736
|Austin Bleess, City Manager
Menu Option #7
The City Manager is appointed by a majority vote of the City Council for an indefinite term and is responsible for implementing policy established by the City Council as well as the administration of all City affairs. The Manager oversees and keeps the Council informed of the business, financial condition and future needs of the City.
City Manager’s Annual Report 2016
What a year 2016 was! There were so many great things that happened in Caribou in 2016, I am excited that we made a lot of progress these past 12 months.
Early in 2016 we were able to welcome Sears Hometown Store to Caribou. When Sears left the mall in Presque Isle it left a huge gap throughout Central Aroostook. The City worked hard to do what we could to get a Sears Hometown Store into Caribou. We were excited to help bring that to fruition.
This year we also did some other great work to help the business community. We hosted a workshop with the Buxton Group to help businesses understand how to interact with customers in the area, and how to attract new customers. The workshop was well attended with businesses from nearly every sector of the local economy partaking.
We hosted a workshop to help businesses get their information out on the web. When people look at our area online there were a number of holes in the online presence of businesses throughout the area. This workshop showed businesses how to improve the information that is on the internet, and helped people looking for businesses in Caribou to find them easier.
We also made some great improvements to City Hall to help citizens. We remodeled the first floor to make better use of the space that is there. We consolidated the City Clerks area and the Motor Vehicle Registration area into one portion of the building. This allows for better service to people looking to interact with the many functions of the Clerk’s Office and the Vehicle Registration. We also moved the Housing Agency and the Assessing/Building Official Office downstairs. When these offices were upstairs people had to walk upstairs to interact with them, and they drew most of the foot traffic to the upstairs. By bringing these offices downstairs we’ve made them more accessible to the public. The project as a whole has received rave reviews from many citizens. I hope you’ve found them helpful as well!
For the second year in a row Caribou was named the most affordable city in Maine! What a great accolade to receive again. It highlights the hard work that the city staff puts into making Caribou not only a great place, but an affordable place, to live, work, and play. Along with that we were ranked as one the best places to retire in Maine. We came in 9th for the best “Recreation and Social Index” in Maine. With events like Thursdays On Sweden, the great programs offered by the Rec Center including the Take It Outside Series and wellness classes it’s easy to see why Caribou was given these accolades.
We continued Thursdays On Sweden this year, and we added another great event: The Caribou Marathon. What a fantastic event that was! We had over 450 runners from around the country and Canada come to Caribou to run the event. We had over 20 different states represented. It is the Most Northeastern Marathon in the United States, and it is also a Boston Marathon Qualifying Marathon.
One of the things that really made the marathon great was all of the people that came out to cheer on the runners. There were people throughout the race course handing out water, playing music, and cheering on the runners. I personally ran the full 26.2 mile race, and I can say the people that came out to cheer us on made the atmosphere surrounding the race amazing. One of the most common pieces of feedback we received about the race from those that ran it was how awesome the citizens of Caribou were in support of the runners throughout the race. Thank you to everyone that came out to cheer us on! The 2017 Marathon will be held on September 17th, so mark your calendars and get your signs ready to cheer on the runners again!
Another major topic throughout 2016 was the new school that is coming to Caribou. The proposed Pre-K through 8 school that will be located on Bennet Drive will be a nice addition to Caribou. Teague Park will be moved across the street to the where the Area Learning Center is today. The Teague Park School, the Learning Center, and the Middle School will all be demolished as part of this project. The old Hilltop School will be turned into Senior Apartments. The old Sincock School will be torn down and turned into a small park as well. This project will have huge positive impacts on Caribou.
And of course probably one of the best things to happen in 2016 was the demolition of the old freezer building at the Birds Eye site! The eyesore that sat at the corner of US Route 1 and Fort Street for many years was demolished and the site looks very different. In 2017 we will be applying for grants through the EPA Brownsfield Program to do more clean up in 2018. It might take two grant cycles to get all of the site cleaned up, but there is progress being made. We’ve heard from some developers that have expressed doing something on that property as well. It seems likely that before long that whole site will be transformed into a great asset for Caribou.
What a great year 2016 has been for Caribou. I’m proud of everything we were able to accomplish this year. The future for 2017 and beyond looks bright. I’m happy to have helped pave the way for the future.
However, in January 2017 I submitted my resignation to the City Council effective March 3, 2017. So while I have helped to pave the road some of the great things to come, it will be up to my successor and future Councils to see these projects through. With all of the positive things that Caribou has to look forward to, it is my sincere hope the Council and the community will focus on the opportunities that lie ahead and embrace them in a forward-thinking manner.
Caribou is a great city and a wonderful community. The people that live here are some of the finest that you’ll find anywhere. The generosity and welcoming spirit are some of the best that you’ll find. When we moved to Caribou it felt like a natural fit. It felt like home.
Thank you to the citizens of Caribou for welcoming me and my family in and for letting us call Caribou home for the past four and a half years. We will always remember our time here in Caribou fondly.