AUGUSTA — City councilors on Thursday agreed to plans to seek more than $2 million to improve streets and sidewalks throughout the city in addition to various capitol improvement projects.

The council, unanimously and without public objections, approved a series of motions that would allow the city to borrow $2.4 million for the projects. Mayor David Rollins said the projects were too expensive to fund through the budget process.

“These are major capitol improvement projects,” he said.

Rollins said borrowing the money will not affect property owners.

“There’s no impact to taxes at all,” he said.

Councilors in one vote agree to a proposal to borrow $1.7 million for street and sidewalk renovations. Residents will get the final decision on whether to borrow that money when they go to the polls in November.

Councilors also agreed to take out a $750,000 council bond, the maximum amount the charter allows to be borrowed without seeking voter approval.

The $1.7 million proposed to be borrowed for street and sidewalk projects would be repaid with proceeds to be collected in taxes from natural gas pipelines and other taxable natural gas infrastructure in the city, to be collected in a tax increment financing, or TIF, account, according to City Manager William Bridgeo.

The city established a natural gas TIF in 2011 as competing gas companies Maine Natural Gas and Summit Natural Gas of Maine began installing gas lines in Augusta. However, unlike tax financing programs set up to help lure companies to locate within a municipality, the revenue collected in the gas TIF goes to the city, not back to either of the gas companies.

TIFs allow municipalities to collect property taxes generated by new development and dedicate it to specific uses allowed under state law, including infrastructure, downtown revitalization or economic development projects. By sheltering such money in a TIF, municipalities avoid reduction in state aid to education and other negative tax effects.

Paying back the bonds with TIF proceeds would prevent the need for a tax increase, according to Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager.

Bridgeo has said road reconstruction projects that would be funded by the plan next year include the upper part of Patterson Street, Leighton Road from Darrin Drive to Bond Brook, Commercial Street, and Cony Street Extension between Haskell Street and Cony Road in the area of the entrance to Cony High School and the Capital Area Technical Center.

The $750,000 council bond will provide $100,000 to resurface sidewalks, $225,000 to build a mile-long river walk at Mill Park, $95,000 for improvements to Wade Road, $95,000 to install new palisades at Old Fort Western, and $70,000 for docks for the east side boat landing.

Planned projects also include roof replacement at the Police Department, improvements at the Buker Community Center and the Augusta Civic Center, and expanding Hartford Fire Station on Water Street. Plans also call for new equipment for the Fire Department and the Department of Public Works.

Staff Writer Keith Edwards contributed to this report.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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