HALLOWELL — Mayor Mark Walker laid out his vision for the city during his inaugural address Monday night at the City Hall Auditorium in Hallowell.

During the speech, Walker highlighted some of the achievements of his first term as mayor, along with goals and plans for the city in the new year.

“I’m very proud of this council that despite the challenge, Hallowell had no tax increase this past year and only a modest increase in the prior year,” Walker said.

Taking a page out of David Letterman’s book, Walker presented those in attendance with a “Top 10” list of goals and issues for the city, including the need to have downtown buildings inspected for fire risks in light of recent serious fires in towns like Gardiner.

Walker also said the city plans to seek a permanent solution to what he called a “decades-long parking problem,” including increasing the number of permanent spots downtown.

But the top three items were the future of fire department, the Stevens School campus and the Water Street reconstruction project.

“I’m optimistic and have a very positive outlook,” Walker said. “I quote Socrates from 2,000 years ago that ‘the secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting (for) the old, but on building the new.”

The inauguration also featured the official swearing-in of Sophie Gabrion and Diano Circo as new councilors, Walker, who ran unopposed for another term, and Councilor-at-Large George LaPointe. LaPointe was unanimously elected council president later in the evening and said he agrees with Walker’s top three priorities for the city.

“But I would’ve put the budget up there too,” LaPointe joked.

In November’s election, Gabrion, representing Ward 2, ran unopposed and replaces Lynn Irish. Circo defeated Andrea Mooney to fill the seat vacated by Mark Sullivan in Ward 4.

Stefan Pakulski said before the inauguration, which was his first as Hallowell’s city manager, that Gabrion and Circo appear poised for success on the council.

“(Diano) served for many years on the Conservation Commission, so he presumably has a fair background with city government process at least in his subject area,” Pakulski said. “(Sophie) appears to have some understanding, as well, through connections with former and current council members.”

“Both new members seem very interested in municipal issues and seem willing to take on the responsibilities,” Pakulski said.

Councilor responsibilities include heading some of the city government’s many committees. Walker named Gabrion the chair of the Cemetery Committee, while Circo will lead the Protection Committee.

During his address, Walker spoke of the continuing discussion among local leaders and community members regarding the future of the city’s fire department. Walker and others have gone on record stating that a decision about the fire department is a priority for 2016.

To that end, Walker announced and touted a “refocused” Fire Services Study Committee which will hope to address concerns about the department. Robert Duplesis will chair the committee, which includes new councilor Sophie Gabrion, former councilor Mark Sullivan, Dawn Gallagher, Dan Davis, Sandy Stubbs and Pakulski.

Walker stressed that the committee would not tackle the issue of the outdated fire station itself, but rather on how best to provide fire services to the residents of Hallowell.

“I expect it would be a couple of months or more of studying about this issue,” Walker said during his address.

In addition to his inaugural address, Walker filled about 100 committee seats except on the conservation commission, which has two vacancies. Walker said the cultural, recreation and Stevens School advisory committees and the tree board will be appointed at council meetings either this month or in February.

The council will hold its first meeting of the year at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11, at City Hall on Winthrop Street.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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