AUGUSTA — City councilors approved on Thursday proposals to borrow $3.6 million to build a new fire station in north Augusta and $1 million to buy a new multipurpose firetruck, which would be kept at the proposed station.

The bonds that would pay for those proposals would be paid back with money collected from commercial development in the same high-traffic, now highly developed north Augusta area that would be served by the new station.

The two Fire Department proposals were among $8.1 million in capital improvement projects that city councilors authorized to go to voters in November.

“These are the kinds of projects we want to spend on,” Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis said. “It goes to show, in this time of scarce dollars, we have to be creative in meeting the city’s obligations.”

With the new bonds, the city would have about $38 million in outstanding debt, which City Manager William Bridgeo said is well below the maximum amount of bond debt state law allows for a city the size of Augusta and low compared to the amount of debt held by some other municipalities.

Council debate Thursday focused on whether to lump the two Fire Department-related bonds together in one referendum question or break them into two questions — one for the truck, the other for the station.

Fire Chief Roger Audette warned that if the truck is approved, but not the station, the city would have no place to put the new truck, because the city’s central station, Hartford, was built in 1920 and could not accommodate a truck of the new rig’s size and weight.

Councilors, in a 7-0 vote, agreed to have both the firetruck and fire station bonds in the same referendum question but to list the cost of each separately on the ballot.

City administrators noted that if voters approve the borrowing plans, property taxes would not be expected to increase as a result.

That’s because the amount to be borrowed would be repaid with money collected in several city tax increment financing, or TIF, accounts. Most of the sheltered funds from the TIF accounts come from new revenue from commercial development in the north Augusta area. That same growth has prompted the need for a new fire station from which firetrucks and ambulances would be able to respond more quickly in the area, where the number of emergency calls has increased.

The TIF money comes from revenue generated by projects including the Marketplace at Augusta, the Central Maine Commerce Center, and expansions at J.S. McCarthy and NRF Distributors. The city retained, and will continue to retain for many years, a portion of the tax revenue generated by those developments, which state rules allow the city to spend on projects within the areas where the TIF developments took place.

Audette said the new station, which would be built on the former Quimby lot that the city owns near the intersection of Anthony Avenue and Leighton Road, would be staffed by current department workers and would not require more firefighters.

Audette and a consultant’s study of fire services in the city done a few years ago said having a station in north Augusta would speed up response times to car accidents, fires and medical emergencies in the busy commercial area, where numerous office workers are employed. It also would be closer to the new MaineGeneral Medical Center.

Audette said the multipurpose “quint” truck would have both a ladder and pump on it. It would replace the city’s 1995 ladder truck, which Audette said is nearing the end of its useful life.

Bridgeo said if the old ladder truck is not replaced within a year or so, the city could begin to have trouble finding parts for it, and the truck could develop rust in its frame or have problems with the turret from which the ladder extends.

In the long run, Audette said, the new multipurpose truck would allow the city to get rid of one of its four pumper firetrucks.

Audette said if a fire station is built in north Augusta, the city would close another fire station, probably the Hospital Street station.

Other proposed bonds approved by councilors Thursday, which still would require voter approval in November, include $1.9 million for repairs and energy-efficiency upgrades at the city-owned Augusta Civic Center and $1.6 million for paving and other improvements to several streets in the city.

Councilors also approved $750,000 in bonds for repairs and improvements to city streets, sidewalks and other city infrastructure. Those bonds will not require voter approval because, according to Bridgeo, the city charter allows councilors to issue bonds of up to $750,000 a year without seeking voter approval.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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