WATERVILLE — Mayor Karen Heck told residents Monday to become engaged in the community.

Read to children, join a committee dealing with issues that interest you, attend community gatherings, promote the city wherever you go, she said.

Find a neat place to live downtown. Buy your food and other goods from local businesses. Recruit your young friends who have left Waterville to come back. Patronize the arts.

“The kinds of things we can do with art and the opportunities it creates are endless,” Heck said.

She was talking to about 25 residents who turned out at Waterville Public Library for Community Convergence, a series of gatherings Heck developed when she became mayor.

Her idea was to get people involved and help them learn about the city, how it works and what they can do to help make it prosper.

Heck and City Manager Michael Roy urged residents to go to Augusta and tell legislators to stop passing financial burdens on to communities.

The city lost $1.3 million in state revenue sharing from 2008 to 2011, Roy said.

He thanked Heck for calling on state officials to stop passing costs to local property taxpayers.

“She’s been one of the few municipal officials showing up in Augusta recently,” Roy said.

Heck cited all the things that make greater Waterville a great place to live: a world-class museum at Colby College; 27 miles of recreational trails; three colleges; people who are passionate about art and music and host festivals involving both; an Opera House that is a gem; Barrel’s, a community market that sells locally grown produce and crafts; Railroad Square Cinema, which offers independent and foreign films; the early childhood development center, Educare Central Maine; and the Maine International Film Festival.

“People come from all over the world to come to MIFF and all I have to do is walk downtown,” Heck said.

The city has done a lot to regionalize services by sharing a fire chief with Winslow and providing Internet technology services to other towns, which brings in revenue, according to Heck.

She noted that her job as mayor is a part-time position and by city charter she has power to do three things: preside over council meetings, veto council decisions and deliver a budget message. She said the city employs talented people who work hard.

“I wanted to do it (become mayor) to be an ambassador,” she said. “I did not want it to micro-manage things that are happening in City Hall.”

She cited areas where the city has potential to expand. She is trying to do what she can to help interested parties get financing to renovate the former Levine’s building, as well as the Haines building on the corner of Main and Appleton streets. Possibilities include developing and renovating apartments in the Levine’s building, and creating a boutique hotel in the Haines building.

We are living in a creative economy and the manufacturing economy of the past not going to return, she said.

“I don’t think that’s a bad thing; I think it’s life,” she said. “You know, you move on.”

People can live in Waterville and do business all over the world via the Internet, she said:

“You don’t have to go to China to do business in China.”

City officials hope a natural gas pipeline will come to the city, Heck said. She added that she loves the idea of capturing methane to generate heat.

“The opportunities are out there,” she said. “Right now we’re exploring the load to find out if a biomass project is feasible — how much need and demand we have for something like that.”

Resident Ernest Grolimund cautioned against developing a biomass plant that burns wood. Grolimund argues that wood emissions pose a health hazard.

“People are really not aware of the air pollution issue,” he said. “If you put a biomass plant in the center of Waterville, it would be the wrong place.”

Heck said she wants to see the city hire an economic development director. The Waterville Development Corp. has all the right players, but they also have full-time jobs, she said.

“I don’t mind playing that role for a while and talking up the area, but I’m not the best person to do that,” she said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

 


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