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Editor's Desk

Interesting Stuff From the Katahdin Cultural Center
By Ken Anderson
Aug 1, 2005 - 10:34:00 PM

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I've been looking over the promotional booklet from the Katahdin Cultural Center, and it left me with a few questions.

The very first paragraph refers to the Katahdin Cultural Center as a "community-owned corporation," yet the second paragraph is a solicitation for the sale of shares of stock in the corporation at $1,000 per share.

Who in the community is going to own this corporation?

We won't know, of course, because it's registered as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) and under Maine law, the owners of of an LLC are kept secret. Ironically, the only named owner of this LLC thus far is Guilds Hollowell who, so far as I know, lives in Falmouth, not Millinocket.

Since the town of Millinocket, sadly enough, contributed $30,000 toward this for-profit venture, does the town own 30 shares of stock in this risky enterprise, or has that money simply been dumped into a black hole, never to be heard from again, similar to that which we contribute to MAGIC?

Despite what many of you have been led to believe, the Katahdin Cultural Center is not a non-profit organization, nor is it owned by the community. In fact, the only two investors that I am aware of thus far are Guilds Hollowell, of Falmouth, who may well not have invested any of his own money into the project, and another who is a Canadian citizen.

From their organizational plan:

Corporate Entity/Ownership

The Katahdin Cultural Center is a community-owned, Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) incorporated in Maine, which manages an 18,000 square foot Katahdin Cultural Center facility.

Ownership shares in the corporation are offered at $1,000 per share to community members in blocks of four shares or more.

Tax-deductible donations to the Center (of any amount) can be made to the Katahdin Fund, a non-profit entity, which will aggregate fund donated for this purpose and use them to purchase shares.

The Katahdin Fund was set up by the Millinocket Area Growth & Investment Council (MAGIC) as a fundraising gimmick.

According to the promotional literature, donations to the Katahdin Fund (which is MAGIC) will be used to purchase shares in the Katahdin Cultural Center, so we know that MAGIC will be an investor.

Among a lot of flowery words and phrases about education and culture, we are told that the Katahdin Cultural Center will be "empowering a more secure economic future for the region."

How will it do that, exactly? By using grant money and public funds to compete with restaurants and retail establishments owned by people who actually live here?

According to the promotional literature, the "cultural center" is going to include a coffee shop, to compete with the one across the street and the other one directly behind Guilds' new business. I think it's reasonable to ask why the taxpayers of Millinocket are subsidizing someone from Falmouth to compete with two existing businesses; both, so far as I know, owned by local people.

Guilds and his investors expect to cash in on this venture in a number of ways. First of all, as the only named owner, Guilds Hollowell has set himself up with a $60,000 salary, including benefits. This, as well as the $90,000 in other annual expenses, are to be paid for by revenue from rental income, fees for services, admission for shows, and grant monies.

According to the plan, three unnamed retail businesses will be paying Guilds $900 a month, and the coffee shop will pay him $400 a month. The FORM will operate a facility in the building, also paying $400 a month. Interestingly, although I am told that the Historical Society has never agreed to rent space in the "cultural center," museum space is supposed to be putting another $600 a month in Mr. Hollowell's pocket. And while I am told that the board of KAT-TV has voted not to move into Guilds' building, he nevertheless intends to charge them $300 a month.

Guilds has always spoken of KAT-TV as if it were his to do with as he pleased, so we'll see if it is truly a community operated television station or not. What do you say, KAT? Do you have an independent voice, or does Guilds pull your strings?

Guilds anticipates $74,040 in revenue from admission to shows from his theater, $26,000 in fees for renting out his meeting rooms, another $7,200 in special event rental, and $35,000 in grant-supported educational programs.

Please don't believe for one minute that this has anything to do with the community's welfare. It is a for-profit business, owned by people whose names will remain secret, and to which our town has, for some reason, contributed taxpayer funds.

I don't see anything about ice cream. Since perhaps the only honest man involved in this whole scam was promised space for an ice cream business, I hope they don't plan to cheat him out of it.

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