AUGUSTA — City councilors’ goals for the year include looking into setting a local minimum wage, exploring the feasibility of inspecting all residential rental units for health and safety code violations over multiple years, working with police to try to eliminate heroin in the city, working with the schools to study and alleviate childhood hunger and homelessness, and promoting business investment, particularly at such locations as the former Statler mill site and downtown.

Councilors approved five general goals Thursday, each with their own subset of related goals and key activities. The five major goals are these: continue to promote business investment, continue to enhance the appearance of the city, continue to improve the quality of life for residents, continue to build a “green” Augusta and continue to communicate with partners.

While many goals sought to continue ongoing initiatives, consideration of adopting a local minimum wage is a new proposal.

Ward 4 Councilor Anna Blodgett was the prime proponent of instituting a local minimum wage. Before Thursday’s meeting, she said she’d like to see the city set a minimum wage of $9 to $9.50 an hour, with likely exceptions for small local businesses with four or fewer employees and for restaurants because of tipping.

“It’s a priority for me,” Blodgett said of setting a local minimum wage higher than the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour. “People can’t live on the minimum wage, or even on what I proposed. But (an increased local minimum wage) could help. The increased money they’d get each week goes right back into the economy. These aren’t rich people, so their money goes right back to local businesses.”

She said she thinks the federal and state minimum wages should be increased, but if they aren’t, more and more municipalities instituting their own higher minimum wages could help build momentum for a national minimum wage increase.

While Blodgett, at a council goal-setting workshop in January, advocated for the council to adopt an increased local minimum wage, the actual goal included in the council goals approved Thursday is less ambitious than that. It directs the council to get information about doing so from the city staff and look into it.

“Upon the receipt of policy information from the mayor and staff at an informational meeting, council will deliberate upon the advisability and potential impact of a local minimum wage ordinance,” the goal states. It is included in a subset under the general goal of “continue to improve the quality of life for residents,” states.

City councilors in Portland are considering a proposal to institute a local minimum wage there of $9.50 an hour.

Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis said nine bills about the minimum wage have been proposed this session in the Legislature.

Councilors, who have discussed the goals at at least two meetings previously, approved the goals unanimously and without debate Thursday.

The overall goal of improving business investment includes forming a new Augusta Economic and Workforce Development Committee “to include members with business acumen and with appreciation for quality of life issues”; insuring the availability of a skilled workforce by cooperating with local education institutions; promoting sites for redevelopment such as the city-owned former Statler site, which is now called Kennebec Lockes; and holding a marketing forum to generate ideas about how best to market the city.

Subgoals within the goal of continuing to enhance the appearance of the city include passing a historic-district ordinance that could increase the likelihood of developers gaining tax credits to rehabilitate buildings downtown; developing the only remaining building at the former Edwards Manufacturing site, including plans for a cultural heritage center; and exploring ways to improve local codes, including considering creating a vacant-buildings code to address the problem of poorly maintained commercial buildings.

Subgoals within the goal of continuing to build a “green” Augusta include evaluating the effect of an ongoing six-month single-stream drop-off recycling program; conducting a council workshop on building streets that accommodate all forms of transportation, including driving, walking and riding bicycles; and assessing the condition of sidewalks in the city.

Subgoals listed under the overall goal of continuing to communicate with partners includes pressing the state legislative delegation to reintroduce the idea of the city being able to charge a payment in lieu of taxes from the state for its properties in Augusta and conducting quarterly meetings with school officials.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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