WATERVILLE — City officials say having a 950-foot-long boardwalk from the Two Cent Bridge north along the Kennebec River would be a great asset for the waterfront at Head of Falls.

To that end, councilors Tuesday night voted 7-0 to spend $2,500 from money remaining in a waterfront bond to develop a design and estimate the cost of such a boardwalk, which would become part of the city’s network of recreational trails.

They said funding for a boardwalk would have to come from grants and gifts, and having a design and cost estimate in hand would make it easier to apply for and get grants.

“I think it’d be a great amenity at that location,” City Manager Michael Roy said Tuesday night. “I don’t think it’s anything that would take away from anything that would come in the future. It would be part of the trail system.”

Roy said Wednesday that the city is not trying actively to market Head of Falls for commercial development, but he said the site is vastly underused and he thinks a public forum about possible uses for the waterfront is needed.

“I think it would be a helpful thing to have a communitywide discussion about the highest and best uses for that property so we don’t bounce back and forth between administrations,” he said. “There are varied points of views, and we’re (city staff) kind of caught in the middle.”

The city had an estimate four or five years ago of about $400,000 for a boardwalk, according to Roy.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Roy said he would welcome any ideas for further improvements at the waterfront.

The city already has spent $1.75 million on improvements to the waterfront completed in 2010. About 10 years ago, the city borrowed $1.25 million and received a $500,000 Municipal Infrastructure Trust Fund grant from the state to install water, sewer and electricity at Head of Falls, as well as develop a parking lot there.

In 2010, a plaza was built near the Two Cent Bridge that includes benches, lights, a kiosk and landscaping. Repairs also were made to the bridge.

The installation of the underground infrastructure 10 years ago was intended to help draw businesess to Head of Falls. Economic development advocates at the time said a brew pub, restaurant, offices and other businesses would work well there and attract more people to downtown.

But Mayor Karen Heck, Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, and others have pushed in recent years to maintain green space at Head of Falls. Festivals and concerts are held on the grassy expanse that was once the site of mills and housing.

Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, said Tuesday night that there had been plans for an active kiosk at the plaza in front of the Two Cent Bridge that would include a video and information about activities occurring in the city, but that type of kiosk was not installed.

Roy said officials were worried an interactive kiosk would be vandalized. It also would have to be updated, and there did not seem to be a lot of energy for that.

The Waterville Rotary Club will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year and is requesting proposals from organizations in the city for a project Rotary could sponsor as a way of commemorating the anniversary, according to Roy. The city could apply for $150,000 in Rotary money to be used toward the boardwalk, which would be about 6 feet wide, have a railing and extend north to where Union Street meets Front Street.

“That certainly would be an eligible project,” Roy said Wednesday.

In other matters Tuesday, Christian Smith, of Macpage, the city’s auditor, said the 2013-14 audit shows the city’s uncommitted fund balance was $4.6 million on June 30, the end of the fiscal year. A city policy states the fund balance should not go below 12 percent of total budget expenditures, and the fund balance is at 12 percent now.

“That means you achieved your goal,” Smith said.

The schools had a fund balance of $677,347, according to Smith.

“So they’re in good financial shape as well,” he said.

The school lunch program did well, having made a $37,000 profit, he said.

Auditors encountered no difficulties dealing with city management in performing and completing the audit and found no deficiencies in internal controls, according to Macpage officials. Also, no disagreements arose between auditors and management about financial accounting, reporting or auditing.

The council also voted to postpone indefinitely a request to rezone 155 River Road from commercial to residential to allow Centerpoint Community Church to transform a bowling alley there into a church. City Solicitor Bill Lee determined no rezoning is necessary.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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