AUGUSTA — City councilors and school board members elected in November will be sworn in Thursday, then councilors will meet to discuss when to fill vacancies that resulted on both boards from November’s election.

Some councilors want to hold a special election to fill the council and school board vacancies in June at the same time as the school budget referendum, but others want to hold it as soon as possible.

Elected in November and scheduled to be sworn in Thursday are councilors Jeffrey Bilodeau, at large; Linda Conti, Ward 1; Anna Blodgett, Ward 4; and school board members Kimberly Martin, chairwoman; Jennifer Neumeyer, at-large; Deborah Towle, Ward 2.

State Attorney General Janet Mills will swear in the newly elected officials at the inauguration and council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Mayor David Rollins was also elected in November, but because he was elected to fill the remaining year left on William Stokes’ term, he was sworn into office sooner, in November. Stokes resigned July 31 when he was appointed superior court justice.

Rollins’ and Martin’s new roles created one vacancy each on the council and school board. Rollins was an at-large councilor, and Martin, until she is sworn in as chairwoman Thursday, is an at-large school board member.

Councilors have previously discussed, without reaching consensus, when to hold a special election to fill the two vacancies. Some councilors wanted to wait until June, when a referendum vote on the school budget is planned. Others, however, said the city charter calls for such elections to be held “as soon as practical” and thus the city should not wait until June to hold an election to fill the spots.

City Manager William Bridgeo said a typical citywide special election costs between $7,000 and $10,000.

Councilors are also scheduled to discuss joint city and state proposals to add a sidewalk to Civic Center Drive between Community Drive and Darin Drive and to lengthen the Kennebec River Rail Trail a short distance to connect to the city’s waterfront park on the west side of the Kennebec River, making the park the trail’s northern trailhead.

Bridgeo said city and state officials have talked for years about the need to install a sidewalk on the heavily traveled, multi-lane section of Civic Center Drive, which runs past the Augusta Business Park, Augusta Civic Center and Marketplace at Augusta in north Augusta. The stretch includes several on and off ramps to Interstate 95.

“This is something the state and city have been contemplating as a safety measure for several years,” said Bridgeo. “It was just awaiting funding to become available.”

Lionel Cayer, city engineer, said the state Department of Transportation has approved the state funding share of the approximately $390,000 cost of building the sidewalk, which he said would be on the west side of the road, the Augusta Civic Center side.

Cayer said the project is scheduled for construction this year, though additional rights of way still need to be secured first.

Bridgeo said the city’s 20 percent share of the project cost, or about $78,000, could be paid with money collected in the city’s natural gas tax increment financing account, meaning it would not require additional tax dollars.

Bridgeo said having the northern trailhead for the Kennebec River Rail Trail be in the city’s waterfront park was “on the drawing board since the rail trail was originally designed.”

The trailhead is currently under Memorial Bridge, adjacent to the parking lot for Maine State Housing Authority. The proposal would connect the rail trail to a walkway in the city park, which is only about 500 feet away. The trail, Bridgeo noted, would zig zag back and forth to get down a steep hill between the two sites.

Cayer said the state DOT has also approved the state’s 80 percent share of the $282,000 total cost of the trail connection, and it is slated for construction this year.

Bridgeo said the city’s $56,000, or 20 percent, share of the project cost could come from downtown tax increment financing money.

Also Thursday councilors are scheduled to have a presentation on state DOT plans to realign the Interstate 95 Exit 109B southbound off-ramp so it intersects with Western Avenue at a 90-degree angle with a stop sign. Currently the off-ramp comes into Western Avenue, heading west toward Manchester on a curve with a yield sign. DOT officials said the change is meant to improve safety, because there are too many accidents at the intersection.

Councilors are also scheduled to discuss a possible local clear-cutting ordinance.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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