HALLOWELL — City councilors next month will float two options to business owners and residents: reconstructing Water Street or doing essentially nothing to fix the road.
Councilors have scheduled a public meeting at 6 p.m., Thursday, May 15, at City Hall to get feedback on the future of the city’s main street, which has an exaggerated crown in the middle and slopes heavily toward the sidewalk on the Kennebec River side.
The project couldn’t happen until 2016 at the earliest, because that’s when state and federal funding would become available for the project. But the council’s Highway Committee has been paring down options for the scope of construction since last year.
It’s now down to two: One is full reconstruction of the stretch mostly between Temple Street and the Augusta line — about a mile — which would cost an estimated $2.8 million in state and federal money and take between five and six months.
The other option is light paving, which is already done regularly.
Councilor Alan Stearns, chairman of the Highway Committee, described the choice as between “go or no go.” The council is expected to make a final decision in June.
Among council members, he said there is “clearly momentum toward reconstruction,” which would allow for new, brick sidewalks downtown, lighting improvements, replacement of an aging water main and sewer improvements.
“But it’s such an important decision for the council that we are genuinely for input from the public before we make that decision,” he said.
Light paving wouldn’t allow for sidewalk or other improvements. Plus, the state already paves regularly on Water Street. City Manager Michael Starn said some paving will take place this summer from the stretch of road from Temple Street to the Augusta line.
Still, there is sure to be concern about a long project crippling the downtown from the Water Street business community, many of whom have said since another public forum last May that extended construction downtown would reduce foot traffic there, hurting their bottom line.
That was echoed Monday by Harriet Schmidt, the owner of Hattie’s Chowder House, a Water Street mainstay, who said Hallowell already faces parking problems. Those could be further exacerbated by routing traffic onto Second Street, she said.
“I’m pretty scared, actually,” Schmidt said. “It just seems to me there’s got to be an easier way to do this.”