The Most Northeastern City in the United States.

Caribou to host 2017 Moose Permit Lottery

Earlier today Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife announced that the 2017 Moose Permit Lottery would be held in Caribou.

“This fantastic event, which draws hundreds of people from around Maine and New England, is an excellent opportunity for people to see all that Caribou has to offer,” said City Manager Austin Bleess. “The City is honored to host such a great event.”

Often described as the “hunt of a lifetime” many people wait years to hear their name called at the lottery.  The lottery often receives nearly 49,000 entries, and draws entries from all 50 states and around the world. The lottery is a chance for those that entered to hear their name called, and realize the chance of a lifetime.

The City submitted an application to the Maine IF&W earlier this year and received local support from State Senator Peter Edgecomb for the application. Bleess cited the great leadership of Event and Marketing Coordinator Lydia Kieffer as the driving force behind the application.

Bleess stated “We are very excited to host the event in 2017, and we look forward to hosting a weekend full of activities around the permit lottery.”

CARIBOU RECOGNIZED FOR RETIREE RECREATIONAL AND SOCIAL OPPORTUNITIES

Retirement is an opportunity for meeting new people and experiencing new things, and according to a new study Caribou is among the best places to do it in Maine. SmartAsset ranked the cities with the most recreational and social opportunities for retirees as part of their study on the Best Places to Retire. The index factors in the number of recreation centers and retirement centers available to seniors as well as what percentage of the city’s population they represent.

“Not only is Caribou the most affordable place to live in Maine, we are great place for seniors to retire to as well,” said City Manager Austin Bleess. “With the great events such as Thursdays On Sweden and the great venue of the Caribou Recreation and Wellness Center, Caribou is able to offer people of all ages great recreational and social opportunities.”

Bleess also pointed to the Take It Outside Series that the Caribou Recreation Department does. These programs help people be active. With events outdoors, such as bird watching, hiking, and snowshoeing and tours of area manufacturers and social interest trips these programs offer something for everyone.

The rankings used statistics of Recreation Centers and Retirement Centers per 1,000 people and the percentage of seniors. Using these data points Caribou was given a Recreation and Social Index of 19.89, which is the ninth highest in the state.

Bleess also stated “We work hard to provide opportunities for everyone here in Caribou. Because of these efforts we are quickly becoming a great recreational leader in Aroostook County. We look forward to building on these successes and continuing to make Caribou the best place to live, work and play in Maine.”

For a full look at the methodology and interactive map, people may visit the website: https://goo.gl/T8rQcJ.

GET YOUR BUSINESS ON THE MAP

The City of Caribou has partnered with Google on a project entitled “Let’s Put Caribou On The Map”. The project has the singular focus of getting local business info online and on the map.

caribou on the mapAccording to Google only 37% of businesses have claimed a local business listing on a search engine–that’s a lot of missing information. And with 4 out of 5 people using search engines to find local info like business hours and directions, it also means a lot of missed opportunities for local businesses.

“Small businesses are the backbone of Caribou,” said Austin Bleess, City Manager. “Anything we can do to help increase their visibility helps not only the businesses, but the consumers in our community and throughout the area.”

To assist businesses in getting more exposure the City of Caribou is hosting an interactive workshop to help businesses manage their information as it appears across Google Search and Maps.

The workshop will be held on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 8:30am at the Caribou Public Library and is expected to last about an hour and a half. The workshop is free and open to all Caribou businesses. Pre-Registration is requested, but not required.

There will be computers available for business owners to utilize to update their business information on Google. Wifi is also available for those wishing to use their own devices.

For questions or to pre-register please contact us by calling City Hall at 493-3324 x7 or via email at citymanager@cariboumaine.org.

Thursdays On Sweden

Thursdays On Sweden is back for 2016!

The event runs from 6-9pm. As always there will be music, food, and vendors! It’s fun for the whole family, so come on down and say Howdy Neighbor!

TOS 2016 poster

Thursdays on Sweden Street Vendor Form Document pdf

 

Search for Unclaimed Property

Many are on the list for having unclaimed property. Check the list and see if you are on there!

http://www.maine.gov/treasurer/unclaimed_property/search/index.html

Caribou Announces Grant Funds for Façade Improvement and Slum and Blight Removal

The City of Caribou recently announced the funding for Façade Improvement Grants and Slum and Blight Removal. This is a new program for the City of Caribou, which is funded through the Downtown TIF District. As such all projects must be located within the Downtown TIF District. For 2016 the City has set aside $50,000 for each program.

“This is an exciting program for Caribou, as it helps business owners to improve their buildings both structurally and aesthetically,” said Austin Bleess, City Manager.

The programs are a proposed partnership between the City of Caribou and the private sector to remove blighted properties and to improve the facades of commercial and mixed use properties within our designated Downtown TIF District from our community and improve property values.

The Façade Improvement Grants may be used for a variety of façade improvements including, but not limited to, painting, window or door repairs/replacements, signage, awnings, tuckpointing, and storefront restorations.  Grant funds will be awarded on a competitive basis; Small and large projects are eligible for funding. The building must be used for 51% commercial/industrial purposes with no residential uses on the first level of the building.  The grant amount for each project would be capped at $7,500 or 50% of the project costs whichever is less.

The Slum and Blight Removal Grants can be used for the demolition and removal of blighted buildings. Applications would be ranked on the blighting influences on the neighborhood, the level of blight, and whether or not there is a reuse of the property that has been identified. The grant amount for each project would be capped at $10,000 or 50% of the project costs whichever is less.

Eligibility requirements include being the owner of the property, being current on all city taxes including Real and Personal Property Taxes, and all bills from the Caribou Utilities District. Properties that have been declared dangerous by the Caribou City Council in accordance with state law are not eligible for the grants.

The City has more information and application forms for these grants available on our website at www.cariboumaine.org/EconDev.

Looking to save money on your 2016 property taxes? Read on to see if you qualify for property tax relief!

By Penny Thompson, Caribou Tax Assessor

 

IMPORTANT property tax legislation enacted during the 2015 Session: For 2016, the Homestead Exemption will increase from $10,000 to $15,000 for qualified home owners.  The amount your tax bill is reduced depends on the annual tax rate. Another change this year: 36 MRSA §653 (Veteran’s exemption) was amended to eliminate the requirement that Vietnam-era Veterans serve on active duty for 180 days during the federally recognized war period of February 27, 1961 and May 8, 1975. If you were denied in the past for this exemption – please reapply before April 1, 2016!

HOMEOWNERS: If your Maine home is your primary residence you may qualify for one or more partial exemptions offered by the State of Maine but only if you apply prior to April 1 of the tax year. These exemptions do not require application each year but please remember the completed form must be received by April 1.  If you have any questions, call your local town or city office. Exemptions available: Homestead (must have lived in your home for twelve months prior to April 1st), Veteran (must be age 62 unless total disability), or for Blind Persons. The State of Maine reimburses the municipality for a portion of the revenue lost by administering these exemptions each year. The forms are the same for every municipality in Maine and can be downloaded at the Maine Revenue Services website:

https://www1.maine.gov/revenue/forms/property/appsformspubs.htm

ATTENTION BUSINESS OWNERS: You will soon be receiving your annual request for information on business personal property. This schedule is required under Maine State Statute Title 36, § 601 and §706. It is important that each business complete the form with a complete list of property in service on April 1, 2016. If you fail to respond, the tax assessor will estimate the value of your business personal property. Taxpayers who do not comply will, by law, lose their right to appeal. Please let the office know – in writing – if you have closed your business so that the office can verify and your account can be deleted.

The BUSINESS EQUIPMENT TAX EXEMPTION (BETE) is a 100% property tax exemption program for eligible business personal property placed in service after 4/1/2007 and located in a qualified business. It does not apply to property located at a retail sales facility and used primarily in a retail sales activity. To qualify, an application must be filed by April 1st of each year with the local assessor. The forms are the same for every municipality in Maine and can be downloaded at the Maine Revenue Services website:

https://www1.maine.gov/revenue/propertytax/propertytaxbenefits/beteapplication.pdf

In all communities in Maine, April 1 of each year is “Tax Situs Day” which is the State of Maine’s way of saying that the tax assessor in your community will assess the value of your property based on how the property was situated on April 1. The good news is if you start building a new garage on April 2 (don’t forget to get a building permit) and enjoy it all year – it won’t be assessed until the following year! The bad news is that if you finally tear down that old garage on April 2 (don’t forget to get a demolition permit) – you will be assessed as if it was there all year.  If you have questions about your property value and the information on file, it is a good idea to call and make an appointment because many municipal offices have limited hours and staffing.

Taxpayers in the City of Caribou may contact the tax assessment office with property assessment related questions. The office can be reached at 493-3324 option #3 or e-mail: taxassessor@cariboumaine.org. The office is staffed by two full-time Certified Maine Assessors: Tony K. Michaud and Penny Thompson. All forms referenced above can be downloaded from the City of Caribou website on the “Tax Assessment” department page at: www.cariboumaine.org.

Budget Season is here again

 

By Austin Bleess, City Manager

 

As the City gets into budget season once again it comes on the heels of more great news for the City of Caribou. Just this week the City was named by SmartAsset (a New York based financial technology company) as the second most tax-friendly places for retirees in Maine. Earlier this year that same company named Caribou as the most affordable place to live in Maine. This is great recognition for the City and highlights the hard work done by the City to have a reasonable budget.

Back in 2011 when the citizens of Caribou voted to approve a new City Charter one of the things that was changed the most was how the City does its budgeting. Starting in September the first report is due. This report lists out every single line item in the budget with a three year average of actual expenditures, previous year’s expense budget, previous year’s actual expenditure, current year expense budget, first eight months actual expenditures, and an annualized actual expenditure based on the eight month actual expenditure. This report is available to the public both on the city website and at City Hall.

It is this budget information that the department heads and I use in creating the budget for the coming year. We go over each line in the budget, examine them, and make adjustments where it is necessary. Some lines are decreased and some are increased. Either way the changes are justified using the historical expense numbers and by looking ahead to what the priorities are. It is this meticulous and thoughtful approach that has helped us earn the distinction of the most affordable place to live in Maine and the second most tax-friendly place for retirees in Maine.

On October 15 the first draft of the 2016 budget will be published on the website and will be available in City Hall as well. This budget lists each and every line item in the budget. It is this draft of the budget that the Department Heads and I will present to you the citizens and the City Council in the budget public forums. These public forums are held in the City Council Chambers and start at 6pm on Monday October 19th, Tuesday October 20th, and Wednesday October 21st.  At these public forums you can ask questions, find out how all the budget numbers are arrived at, and make comments and suggestions on the budget as well.

There is also the formal public hearing on the budget which will be held November 9th during the City Council meeting. As with all public hearings, citizens can come and voice their concerns and comments to the Council at this time.

The final budget likely will not be approved until December, which means there will likely be changes made to the budget between what is presented on October 15th and what gets adopted for 2016. Throughout the process we will be posting revisions of the budget to the website for public review.

One of the great things about local government is that citizens have direct access to city officials and can have your voice heard at every meeting. I encourage you to be a part of the process as we move through the 2016 budgeting process.

 

Austin Bleess has been the City Manager of Caribou since October 2012. He can be reached at 493-3324 x230 or via email at citymanager@cariboumaine.org.

 

Public Safety Complex Study Committee

The Caribou City Council is looking for citizens who may be interested in serving on the Public Safety Complex Study Committee. As part of the updated Caribou Comprehensive Plan this committee was recommended to look at the need for a new building for the Caribou Fire and Ambulance Department. A combined facility with the Caribou Police Department may ultimately prove the best fiscal option and solve two problems with one facility.

Anyone interested in serving on this committee should complete a Volunteer Application and submit it to City Clerk Jayne Farrin at jfarrin@cariboumaine.org or 25 High Street, Caribou, ME.

 

November 2014 Council Survey

The following are the results from the Council survey conducted at the polls on Election Day, November 4, 2014. Approximately 3,000 Caribou residents voted that day and 1,284 of them took the Council survey. Below are the responses of the 1,284 people that took the Council Survey.

YES NO
1. Do you favor the continuance of brush removal once a year by the Highway Department? 81% 19%
 2. Do you want ALL the sidewalks plowed during the winter at an additional cost of approx. $25,000?  62%  38%
 3. Do you want ALL the street lights to be turned back on at the additional cost of approx. $50,000?  41%  59%
 4. Do you think the city office should stay open later a couple of evenings a week and close early one afternoon?  49%  51%
  5. Do you think the city should spend $69,000 (after grants & donations) to build a new splash pad?
(Total cost would be about $250,000)
 36%  64%
 6. Do you agree with the secession movement that the rural area should secede from the compact area of Caribou?  22%  78%
 7. Nylander Museum patrons’ usage is minimal.  Do you think the city should close the Nylander Museum?  44%  56%
 8. If the Nylander Museum is closed, do you think the city should sell the building?  63%  37%
 9. Have you attended a Thursdays on Sweden event, either this year or last?  65%  35%
 10.  Do you plan to attend a Thursdays on Sweden event next year?  78%  22%
 11.  Do you think tax payer dollars should be spent to support non-profits and charities such as the Red Cross,
Aroostook Area Agency on Aging, Aroostook Council for Healthy Families and the like?
 53%  47%
 12. To help avoid a tax increase, the vacancies at the Library, Highway Dept. and Police Dept. may not be
filled.   Are you in agreement with this?
 56%  44%

 

If you have questions or comments on the survey please contact the City Council.