WATERVILLE — While absentee voting in the municipal election started Tuesday, Waterville voters who wait until Election Day, Nov. 7, will go to a brand new location to cast their ballots — the Harold Alfond Athletic Center at Thomas College at 180 West River Road.

City officials explored several alternative sites to the American Legion hall on College Avenue, because that building was to be sold, according to City Clerk Patti Dubois.

She and others looked at schools, the Waterville Elks Lodge, local churches, Champions Fitness Center, Hathaway Creative Center, T&B Celebration Center, All Pro Sports and more sites, Dubois said.

“The criteria we used was availability, affordability and handicapped accessibility, adequate parking and interior size,” Dubois said Tuesday.

Some places were not interested in renting space for voting, she said, and many were not able to give up space for three days, which is what it takes to prepare for elections — a day to set up the polling place, a second day for voting and a third for disassembling the site. The Thomas field house was the best fit and will cost the city $1,500, Dubois said.

“It was the largest and it had adequate parking and it was affordable,” she said.

She and others visited every potential site in the city that they could think of as a possible polling place, she said. They also looked at places others suggested.

“It was really a thorough process that we went through,” she said.

A DEBATE AMID BALLOTING

Voting will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, but people also may vote by absentee ballot through Nov. 2. Absentee voting started Tuesday in the IT office on the main floor of City Hall at 1 Common St.

“We’ve had some people in today,” Dubois said Tuesday.

Absentee voting is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but those hours will be extended to 7 p.m. on Nov. 1 only, she said.

People may vote absentee by U.S. mail as well. They may call her office at 680-4211 or send a written request for a ballot to City Hall, 1 Common St., Waterville, ME 04901. They will receive a ballot and return address envelope in the mail, Dubois said. Voters may mail the ballot back to City Hall or deliver the ballot in person, she said.

Voters also may go online to www.waterville-me.gov to request a ballot from the clerk’s office. Completed ballots must be received by the city clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

In the midst of absentee balloting, the Morning Sentinel has organized a Waterville mayor’s race debate at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, at Thomas College’s Ayotte Auditorium.

Jim Libby, professor of business administration at the school, will moderate the debate.

The three candidates for mayor, incumbent Nicholas S. Isgro, a Republican; John C. Levesque, who is running with no party affiliation; and Erik Thomas, a Democrat, will be seated at a table onstage while Libby will have a separate table or podium.

The candidates will make brief opening statements, and then Libby will pose them questions.

Audience members will have the opportunity to submit questions of their own, which will be reviewed and posed toward the end of the program.

The debate will be live-streamed on the Morning Sentinel’s website.

TRANSPORTATION TO POLLS

The city is trying to coordinate rides to the polls via Kennebec Valley Community Action Program’s Kennebec Explorer van for those who do not drive, according to Dubois.

“They’ve agreed to add Thomas College as an additional stop on the route that goes through Kennedy Memorial Drive and Seton Village on Election Day,” she said. “People can get out to the polls that way. Pickup is on The Concourse and they will go to Thomas College and cycle back through. If people don’t have money for the fare, we will pick up the fare.”

Kennebec Explorer will stop for people on The Concourse at 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., as well as 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Election Day, she said.

Kennebec Explorer also will pick up people at their homes if they live within about a block of its regular route. Those interested may call 877-5677 or go to the website kennebecexplorer.com.

Dubois said the city is asking motorists going to the polls to enter the Thomas campus through its main entrance on West River Road, across from Orchard Park Apartments. The Harold Alfond Athletic Center is to the left as one enters the college, and drivers are being asked to park to the east, or rear, of the building in a large parking lot and enter the field house from the rear. Signs will be erected and people will help direct drivers to the lot.

“We’re going to try to direct people leaving to go around the back side of campus where the athletic fields are, back to West River Road,” Dubois said.

She noted that people wanting to register to vote must do so in person after Oct. 17 either at the clerk’s office or IT room at City Hall, or on Election Day at the polls. Those registering must present identification and proof of residence.

OTHER CANDIDATES

In addition to considering four state referendums and the three candidates for mayor, voters in all seven city wards will be asked to vote for two Kennebec Water District trustees. Candidates are Denise Ann Brueswitz and Alexander Gregory Wild, both of whom are Democrats.

Ward 2 residents will consider electing a city councilor. The candidates are incumbent Nathaniel J. White, a Democrat, and Robert K. Hussey, a Republican. Ward 2 residents also will consider voting for incumbent Board of Education member Susan M. Reisert, a Democrat, or Patrick J. Roy, a Republican, for the school board.

In Ward 4, incumbent City Councilor Sydney R. Mayhew, a Republican, faces opposition from newcomer Christopher D. Rancourt, a Democrat. Incumbent Board of Education member Maryanne Bernier, a Democrat, faces opposition from Rebekah Kathryn Collins, who is running with no party affiliation.

In Ward 5, incumbent Mary E. Fitzpatrick, who is running with no party affiliation, faces opposition from newcomer Julian A. Payne, a Democrat.

In Ward 6, City Councilor Winifred L. Tate, a Democrat, is running unopposed for her seat. Elizabeth A. Bickford, a Democrat and member of the Board of Education, also is running unopposed for her school board seat.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17