WATERVILLE — A proposal to ask city councilors to approve hiring an economic development director apparently will be put on the back burner until the proposed $17.7 million municipal budget for 2015-16 can be trimmed.

The council agenda for Tuesday’s meeting asks the council to approve establishment of a community and economic development office and the hiring of a community and economic development director. Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, sponsored the ordinance, which requires three council votes.

But Stubbert said Wednesday that the council probably will table the request and re-consider it after budget issues are settled.

“There’s a problem,” Stubbert said. “I’ve got strong support on this, and the mayor supports it. There won’t be a problem getting it passed, but we may hesitate. We may not deal with it tomorrow night. I don’t agree with the issue, but it’s an appearance issue based on the fact that the budget is going to be involving a 21/2-mill increase. We’re going to try to get that down before we pass it, and this might get in the way.”

Stubbert has long advocated for hiring an economic director.

“It’s pretty obvious if you look around at cities in the state — especially here in central Maine — the cities that have prospered are the ones that have active economic development directors within city government,” Stubbert said. “We’ve been waiting for somebody else to do it, and the results have been pretty bad.”

The proposed school budget for 2015-16 is $21.4 million. The municipal and school budget represent an increase over the current $37.2 million budget with increases reflected mostly in salaries, benefits, insurances and loss of revenue from the state.

Tuesday’s council meeting will be at 7 p.m. and will be preceded by a 6:45 p.m. public hearing to discuss a request by Thomas College that the city issue securities for up to $7.8 million with the proceeds to be loaned to the college for financing a 35,000-square-foot dormitory. The city would not be liable or obligated by helping the college in this respect, according to city officials.

On the economic development director issue, Mayor Nick Isgro said Monday that everyone agrees that in a perfect world, having an economic development director would be a great addition to the city.

“I just think the timing is wrong right now until we can rein in our budget to where it makes sense,” Isgro said.

Like Stubbert, Isgro said an economic development director is a “missing key piece, compared to other cities around the state that are doing well.”

“That said, I think the timing is wrong,” Isgro said. “I think we need to get our own financial house in order before we pursue this.”

City councilors in January discussed the possibility of hiring a new director of the Central Maine Growth Council and placing that position under the umbrella of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce. The idea was to allow that director to focus on economic development and have the chamber do the clerical and administrative duties formerly done by the most recent director of the Growth Council, Darryl Sterling, who resigned last year. He earned about $72,000 annually.

The Growth Council is funded by three municipalities, as well as by businesses and institutions including hospitals and colleges. The city contributes $30,000, and Fairfield and Winslow each contribute between $12,000 and $15,000 annually.

In January, both Kimberly Lindlof, president and chief executive officer of the chamber, and City Manager Michael Roy said they hoped to hire a new Growth Council director by April 1.

In other matters Tuesday, councilors will consider spending up to $125,000 to install a traffic light at the intersection of Airport Road and Kennedy Memorial Drive. The resolution says the city would waive the bid process and take the original low bid of $111,675 from AD Electric, which was obtained by the state Department of Transportation through a public bid process in 2010.

Also as part of the vote, the city would accept Kleinfelder to provide inspection and certification services for an estimated cost of $3,800. Also, Roy would be authorized to enter into an agreement between the city and DOT for installation and maintenance of the traffic signal and be authorized to spend any contingency funds up to the $125,000 limit for any additional expenses related to the project. The city’s funding for the project would come from a bond.

Councilors Tuesday also will consider extending the city’s lease with Airlink LLC for three years at Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport. Airlink leases space in the main airport terminal building for a flight school and commercial charter service.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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