GARDINER — After a fire last year destroyed 235 Water St. in the heart of downtown, Gardiner city officials started taking a closer look at life-safety issues in downtown buildings.

Now they are considering whether to broaden that focus to include multi-family units throughout the city. On Wednesday, officials from three Maine cities that have tackled similar issues are expected to tell the Gardiner City Council what they have learned and highlight some of the issues they have faced both in downtown neighborhoods as well as in multi-family units.

“Last summer, the City Council passed a motion to create a fire prevention/codes working group,” Gardiner City Manager Scott Morelli said, echoing what Hallowell city officials had done in the wake of the downtown Gardiner fire.

The Gardiner City Council meets at 6 p.m. in City Council chambers at 6 Church St.

At the end of December, three families were displaced when the house they were living in at 37 Winter St., caught fire. That fire showed that life and safety issues aren’t limited to the downtown neighborhood, officials said.

It seemed logical to invite officials who already have started looking into these issues, Morelli said, and to learn from them. Those who are expected to attend are Julie Sullivan, chief of staff of the executive department for the city of Portland; Stefan Pakulski, Hallowell city manager; and William Bridgeo, Augusta city manager.

Portland was the site of a 2014 fire that killed six people. The house had a history of code violations. After that, Portland city officials launched a Fire/Code Inspections Task Force that has examined its inspections programs.

Augusta has had experience dealing with unfit apartments, Morelli said.

Barb Skelton, Gardiner’s code enforcement officer, said the risks that accompany downtown apartments “are pretty evident.”

“Most are not owner-occupied, and maintenance in older buildings is always an issue,” she said. “And tenants are not always aware of safety.”

Skelton serves on the Gardiner working group with Fire Chief Al Nelson.

“The Water Street fire opened my eyes to the needs for some code enforcement or certainly code compliance in the downtown area,” Nelson said.

Even before the Winter Street fire, there had been talk of expanding the group’s focus to multi-family units, he said, but that fire highlighted some serious problems. “We did find things that were not up to code,” he said.

The council is being asked to consider expanding the purview of the working group.

The Gardiner City Council also will consider:

• Selling foreclosed property at 11 Evergreen Way to its previous owners, a matter that is set for discussion at in an executive session before the matter comes up for a vote;

• Adopting 2016 council goals and meeting rules;

• Appointments or reappointments of board and commission members; and

• A liquor license renewal for the Depot Pub.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ