WATERVILLE — Councilors on Tuesday voted to borrow $4.1 million dollars next year to help fund capital improvement projects including a $305,000 property revaluation and $290,000 for an airport runway reconstruction.

The council must take two more votes to finalize the borrowing and could reduce or increase that amount before a final vote.

Tuesday’s vote followed an hourlong workshop session at which councilors heard requests for equipment from Public Works Director Mark Turner, Parks and Recreation Director Matt Skehan, Airport Manager Randy Marshall and Fire Chief David LaFountain.

Councilors were asked to consider borrowing $4.48 million for capital projects, but Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, proposed amending the amount to $4.1 million, as LaFountain and Skehan introduced ways to reduce their requests to an amount equaling the difference.

Five councilors approved borrowing the $4.1 million. Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, and Karen Rancourt Thomas, D-Ward 7, abstained from voting.

City Manager Michael Roy said the property revaluation and runway reconstruction projects are committed projects and must be funded. He urged borrowing for capital improvement projects, saying he was concerned about the availability of any tax money to replace equipment for public works, the Fire Department and parks and recreation.

“I think this borrowing is very, very important,” he said. “I don’t see us coming back for another borrowing request for quite some time.”

O’Donnell said that, by the same token, borrowing $4.48 million would raise the tax rate by about two-thirds of a dollar per $1,000 of assessed property value.

“And that’s not getting any better either — the burden on the taxpayers,” he said.

The city would use some of the borrowed money to reconstruct the Cherry Hill Drive area, including Eaton Drive, officials said.

“I think the condition of our roads shows people what Waterville can and can not do,” Roy said.

The City Hall roof needs work and could be replaced for $125,000, or the city could spend less — $25,000 — and buy the city five or 10 years, he said.

Rancourt-Thomas urged caution on borrowing, saying residents already are uneasy about the new pay-as-you-throw trash collection system, and if they learn their taxes are going to increase because of borrowing, they will be angry.

“We have to be extremely careful what we ask for,” she said. “We have to be frugal with this.”

Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, said people expect value for their tax dollars, and if public works equipment breaks down, they will experience problems such as sidewalks that are not cleared. Mayor Karen Heck agreed, saying that the request for capital improvements does not constitute a wish list, that people want streets plowed and swept, potholes fixed and sidewalks cleared.

“It’s not a wish list, and I don’t think we should refer to it as a wish list,” she said.

Councilor Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, questioned a request from businesses that a $125,000 traffic signal be installed at the intersection of Airport Road and Kennedy Memorial Drive. Roy said several businesses requested in writing that a signal be installed there, as is it near impossible to take a left-hand turn from Airport Road to Kennedy Memorial.

“That’s not a necessity, Mike,” Stubbert said.

Bushee asked if the businesses requesting the signal could help fund it.

“I don’t know,” Roy replied, to which Heck said, drawing laughter, “We accept donations.”

Meanwhile, Mayor-elect Nick Isgro, who attended both the workshop session and council meeting, recommended councilors not rush to approve borrowing more than $4 million with little realistic view of how it will affect the tax rate.

Like Thomas, he recommended they have another workshop before taking further votes on the proposal.

“I just don’t think it should be harried and rushed through after the one-hour workshop I just attended,” he said.

Councilors decided to hold another workshop at 6 p.m. Dec. 16, prior to their regular 7 p.m. meeting.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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