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Arts and Culture

Dover-Foxcroft Theater Gets USDA Grant Despite Lack Of County Support

A small community theater in Dover-Foxcroft has been awarded a $28,000 federal grant to make repairs to the building's 80-year-old foundations, despite opposition from county commissioners.

As part of its application to the USDA, the Center Theatre in Dover-Foxcroft sought a letter of support from the Piscataquis County Commission, which, in an unusual move, rejected the request by a vote of 2 to 1.

The theater's executive director, Patrick Meyers, admits to having disagreed with the commission in the past, and he publicly criticized the commissioner over actions they took in January opposing mask mandates, but he says he was shocked by their refusal to support a grant request.

"In my talking with the USDA and other organizations, I mean, the term unprecedented came up several times," Meyers says.

Meyers says that commission members raised concerns over what they called "political activity" at the theater, and he says he was accused of being an ANTIFA activist by members of the community after he rented the theater out to a group that showed a film about the rise of white supremacy.

Meyers says his own political views are just that, and that none of the nonprofit theater's funds have been used to support Black Lives Matter activists or any other political cause, as commissioners have suggested.

Meyers says numerous community members, towns and lawmakers wrote letters to support the theater's grant application including both Senators Susan Collins and Angus King.

Meyers says it's hard not feel targeted, and he describes the commission's actions as "inappropriate."

"In a lot of ways there aren't any guidelines over how county government operates- not only in Piscataquis, but a lot of other counties," Meyers says.

Meanwhile, local efforts were launched shortly after the commission's controversial anti-masking resolution in January, seeking to create a county charter commission.

Meyers says he's hoping to start the building work this summer, but due to the delays, the theater may need to postpone until next year.

A call seeking comment from the Piscataquis County Commission has not yet been returned.