AUGUSTA — Mill Park could get a mile-long riverwalk around its expansive but lightly used riverside grounds and a new lower fence next year under a capital improvement plan city councilors are expected to discuss Monday.

The $4.1 million capital improvement plan for the coming year proposed by City Manager William Bridgeo also would put about $1.8 million from taxes on natural gas pipelines and other natural gas infrastructure installed in the city in recent years into street and sidewalk paving, restoration and reconstruction.

The plan calls for a range of improvements to the city-owned Mill Park between Northern Avenue and the Kennebec River, including a $225,000 riverwalk around the park’s inside perimeter.

At-large City Councilor Jeffrey Bilodeau, a member of a city committee that makes recommendations for Mill Park, said the committee proposes to add an approximately 6-foot-wide path for walking, bicycling, running and possibly cross-country skiing to the park. He said the trail would be a loop and could be good for people who don’t want to travel out and back on the nearby Kennebec River Rail Trail.

He said the committee also recommends replacing an 8-foot-tall chain-link fence now along the river with a more attractive 4-foot fence similar to fencing installed lately on the rail trail.

“There is a fence down there that looks kind of like you’re in jail, 8 feet tall with barbed wire and chain link,” Bilodeau said. “We’d like something that blends in a little better, about 4 feet high; then you can see the river better.”

Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis said the trail would be accessible to people with disabilities, with ramps, instead of stairs, where the elevation changes.

The trail would have period lighting and also might have exercise equipment stationed alongside it.

Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, said the $225,000 to pay for the new trail probably would come from money collected in property taxes in one of the city’s tax increment financing districts. He said a TIF district would have to be modified to cite the trail as a designated project.

Putting in the new fence and making repairs to other fencing in the park would cost about $30,000, which would come from Mill Park money collected through charges to a contractor who used the park during a Greater Augusta Utility District project in 2013.

The biggest spending proposal is a plan to put nearly $1.9 million into street and sidewalk improvements, all but $100,000 of which would be funded by property taxes paid by Maine Natural Gas and Summit Natural Gas of Maine on its natural gas infrastructure installed in Augusta. Much of that work involved tearing up city streets to install gas pipeline. Those funds, since 2015, have gone into a natural gas tax increment financing, or TIF, account.

TIFs allow municipalities to collect property taxes generated by new development and dedicate it to specific uses, generally infrastructure, downtown revitalization or economic development projects. By sheltering such funds in TIFs, municipalities, during the term of the TIF district, avoid the reduction in state aid to education, and other negative tax effects, if those funds weren’t so sheltered.

The street improvements proposed to be funded by TIF money still would need to be approved by city voters, probably in November, as the city would seek a bond to pay for them, with the bond then being paid back in coming years with TIF proceeds.

To be ready in time for the November ballot, councilors would have to approve the capital improvement projects by Sept. 10, Bridgeo said.

He said $520,000 of the money proposed to be spent on roads and sidewalks is maintenance paving meant to preserve city streets and roads, $100,000 is for sidewalk improvements, and the remaining $1.25 million would be for major projects. Those major projects would include the reconstruction of the upper portion of Patterson Street, Leighton Road from Darrin Drive to Bond Brook, and Commercial Street.

Other proposed projects that could be funded by the plan include $145,000 for upgrades to more-efficient LED lighting at various buildings, $160,000 for improvements to the Buker Community Center, $50,000 to hire an architect to design plans to renovate and expand Hartford Fire Station, $95,000 to replace the palisade walls at Old Fort Western, and $65,000 to replace the police station roof.

Councilors are scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Monday in council chambers at Augusta City Center for a workshop to discuss the proposed capital improvement plan. Capital improvements, according to Bridgeo, are generally considered to be projects or purchases expected to have a useful life of more than five years, with a cost of $5,000 or more.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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