HALLOWELL — A forum for municipal candidates Tuesday night in City Hall focused largely on the anticipated Water Street reconstruction as well as the future of the Stevens School campus, now owned by the state.

Those two issues facing Hallowell over the next couple of years formed the basis for the opening question presented to the five candidates for City Council by Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, a former mayor of the city.

Mayor Mark Walker, who is seeking another two-year term, said a Department of Transportation public meeting scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall will provide a good deal of information, including new information about storm drainage. The state is proposing to reconstruct the street between the public boat landing and a point just north of Winthrop Street.

“We have not made any decisions that are final at this point other than to go forward with the project,” he said, adding that businesses have a little less than two years to prepare.

When Anthony Masciadri, also a former mayor, asked how long it might take, Walker said it was still in the engineering phase, but it could be done in one construction season, April to November.

Walker also said the 64-acre Stevens School property still is being marketed by the state with an Oct. 30 bid deadline.

He said no one came for the scheduled view the same day the area endured heavy rainfall. Walker said he has concerns about city police having to patrol the site and trying to keep watch on the 13 vacant, aging buildings.

“There’s no easy answers to Stevens School,” said George Lapointe, who is seeking re-election to an at-large council seat and whose office was at the Stevens School property for more than a decade when he was commissioner of the state Department of Marine Resources. “We need to remain active partners with the state so when they make a decision, it’s good for the city as well.”

He also said council has worked to foster communication about the Water Street reconstruction project and facilitate a good relationship with the DOT.

While the mayor and the incumbent councilor provided status updates, first-time candidates offered their views as well, including the two Greenville Street residents hoping to be the choice in Ward 4.

Diano Circo, project manager at The Trust for Public Land in Portland, said he had an up-close view of the systems running under Water Street, including modern pipes, rusty pipes, clay pipes and wooden troughs.

“There’s no way to sugar-coat it; it’s going to be painful,” Circo said, adding that he wanted to see the city work with businesses “to make sure it’s as pain-free as possible.” He also urged people to think of the improvements it would bring, citing redeveloped sidewalks and better access to downtown for seniors among others.

Andrea Mooney, a clinical director of a mental health organization in Wiscasset, said she would look at the competing needs of everyone involved. “My thoughts are mostly around what I could bring to that process,” she said. “I do understand people and some business.”

She suggested celebrating the reconstruction and “doing crazy stuff to keep everybody’s morale up.”

Circo said he sees a great opportunity for preserving the undeveloped portion at the rear of the Stevens School property and having a trail to link it to the 146-acre Howard Hill property recently acquired by the Kennebec Land Trust.

He said that would ensure city residents’ access to the hill and draw some of the traffic from Vaughn Woods, a heavily used nature preserve on the opposite end of the city’s developed area.

With regard to the core of the Stevens School property, he said, “I’d love to figure out a way to preserve some of those buildings if possible.” he said.

Mooney said she already has blogged about her thoughts on redeveloping the Stevens School property. “I see it as an opportunity to do something unique, maybe housing, affordable housing,” she said. Mooney said she had difficulty finding an affordable apartment when she worked at Slates Bakery.

She said the property could be a good site for mixed development: houses, rental units and commercial use.

Sophie Gabrion, director of public education at NAMI Maine, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is running unopposed for the Ward 2 seat. She said she is particularly interested in history and wants to maintain as much of the historic charm as possible at the Stevens School.

Other candidates present included Jill Randall, an attorney with Maine Legal Services for the Elderly, who is seeking a three-year seat representing Hallowell on the school board of Regional School Unit 2, and Scott Cowger, a former legislator who is owner and innkeeper of the Maple Hill Farm and Conference Center. Cowger is running as a Ward 5 write-in candidate for the Charter Commission. No one had filed nominating papers in that ward by the deadline.

He and Warren told the attendees that people voting for Cowger must write his name on the ballot and fill in the circle next to it.

Cowger was the only charter commission candidate at the forum, which attracted 18 people, including current and former municipal officials.

The other charter commission candidates are Maureen Aucoin in Ward 1, Christy Cross in Ward 2, Richard Dolby in Ward 3 and Robert McIntyre in Ward 4.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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