GARDINER — The City Council’s first meeting of the new year will start off with the inauguration of two newly elected councilors, Patricia Hart and Thomas Harnett.

Today’s 7 p.m. public hearing and council meeting will follow the inauguration and reception at City Hall, which starts at 6 p.m. “My thanks to outgoing councilors Lisa Liberatore and Greg Thompson for all their hard work during their terms in office,” said City Manager Scott Morelli.

Councilors scheduled a public hearing to discuss a request from the Gardiner Lodge of Elks for a liquor license renewal.

The council will then hear the first reading of a request from the Kennebec Valley Gas Co. to create a tax increment financing district to help finance construction of a natural gas pipeline project. The gas company is seeking the tax breaks from the 12 communities the pipeline would travel through.

Morelli said a public hearing was held last month to discuss the gas line.

“Overall, the introduction of a cheaper form of energy into our region is good for businesses and residents so that they have more options,” he said. “We are working with KV Gas representatives on a way to get the gas line to run to our business park so that existing and prospective businesses have the option of natural gas.

“We’ve yet to reach an agreement on how to do this but will continue to strive toward this end as it is a priority of the council and is linked to the discussions about granting a tax break on the project.”

Morelli said the routes of the main line and distribution lines aren’t settled yet, though several residents and businesses would have access to natural gas. “But it certainly won’t be something that is city-wide,” he said.

The council also will consider approval of a $100,000 grant for community planning, discuss a 2011 audit report, the city manager’s contract and the delegation of certain council powers to city staff. He said the delegation of powers is new this year.

“It will take some issues that would have to wait for a council meeting to be decided, and instead vest the decision-making authority with city staff,” he said. “This will mean quicker response times on many issues, such as road opening permits, so contractors can get things done quicker but still have staff review it for compliance with city ordinance.”

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

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