WATERVILLE — City councilors voted 4-2 Tuesday to authorize a cooperative agreement in support of a $6 million interchange at Trafton Road, but they made it clear the city will have no financial role in building that interchange.

The cooperative agreement says the city will make improvements to Trafton Road if the interchange is built and the road needs improvements in the future.

City Manager Michael Roy emphasized that the vote taken Tuesday also reflects the city’s intention to create a tax-increment financing district to provide the city with $500,000 to repair and rebuild Trafton Road if it becomes necessary in the future because of the highway interchange.

Trafton Properties Inc. is proposing the interchange. The Rhode Island company owns the former Wyandotte mill at the corner of West River and Trafton roads that houses businesses including Mid-State Machine and employs 78 people who earn an average salary of $46,000 a year, according to John Melrose, a Trafton consultant.

Construction of the interchange itself is still dependent on winning a $2 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Trafton and the state Department of Transportation would fund about two-thirds of the cost of the interchange.

Roy said Trafton Road is a local road, but the state will turn it into a state road if the interchange is built, and improvements to the road would be funded half by the city and half by the state.

Trafton Road residents spoke out against the interchange Tuesday, saying they moved to that area for the peaceful, rural life that it affords. Susan McKenzie said she moved from Violette Avenue to that area 22 years ago because it was a place where she could walk with her dog off a leash and view the wildlife all around her.

“There’s a reason why we choose to live in Maine, and it’s for a particular way of life that’s in danger of being lost,” she said.

She said she is not against economic development, but she added that people in the city should think about where they want economic development to take place.

Michael Donahue said building an interchange at Trafton Road would surely divert traffic from Kennedy Memorial Drive and downtown. He said auto dealers, Gifford’s Ice Cream and businesses at Shaw’s and JFK plazas stand to lose business if the interchange is built.

“Has anybody else asked them how they feel about diverting traffic off (Kennedy Memorial Drive)?” he asked.

Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, voted to approve the agreement, as did Councilors Rosemary Winslow, D-Ward 3, Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, and Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6. Councilors Edward Lachowicz, D-Ward 2, and John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, voted against it. Councilor Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, was absent from the meeting, as her daughter broke her arm, according to Mayor Karen Heck.

Councilors voted 4-2 to reject changing the city’s tax-increment financing policy to allow housing related projects to quality for TIF assistance under certain conditions. Thomas and Winslow were the only councilors who voted for the change.

The vote raises the question whether an effort by Developers Collaborative, of Portland, to garner a TIF to finance building 18 additional units onto the St. Francis Apartments complex will be successful.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland owns the development, a 40-unit apartment complex on Elm Street being built as affordable housing for seniors, and established St. Francis Apartments Inc. to manage the complex that is expected to open in October. The 40 units received Housing and Urban Development funds, but HUD money is not available for the proposed 18 units.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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