WATERVILLE — Whether the city should continue funding Waterville Main Street at the rate of $40,000 a year was a question city councilors grappled with Tuesday night as they discussed what items could be slashed and what should be added to the proposed 2016-17 municipal budget.

Councilor Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, started the discussion about Waterville Main Street, saying that the organization has no executive director now and $40,000 is a lot of money. Typically, the organization comes to the council annually to describe what it is doing and what its plans are; but the last couple of years, that has not happened, Bushee said.

She said she thinks it’s time to take a serious look at the funding and see whether it should be cut and the money shifted to other places that need it.

“I don’t want to come off as the anti-Main Street councilor,” she said. “I think I’ve had concerns the last couple of years on events that used to be hosted by Waterville Main Street and activities that disappeared or blended into something else.”

City Manager Michael Roy said he thought it would be good to discuss the matter with Waterville Main Street officials after the organization holds a retreat April 25, at which members will discuss what to do about the executive director’s spot. That position was left vacant when Jennifer Olsen resigned last year. June L’Heureux, the office manager, has been running it since then.

Bushee said she is concerned that funding is given to Waterville Main Street based on what the organization wants rather than what is best for the city.

Of the $95,000 used to fund Waterville Main Street annually, $40,000 comes from the city and $30,000 from Colby College, according to Roy.

Councilor Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, asked whether the council could decide Tuesday at least to cut back the amount of funding the city provides.

Roy reiterated that he thought Waterville Main Street should have a chance to explain the need for funding.

“I’m going to let them know there are some serious questions and we’re looking at what may be the most difficult budget, …” Roy said. “These questions are very appropriate and important. Forty thousand dollars is a lot of money.”

Soule wondered aloud whether the council should not cut the funding right then and there, but Councilor Rosemary Winslow, D-Ward 3, resisted doing that.

“I like having a conversation with them first,” she said.

Bushee noted that she thinks highly of L’Heureux and loves the annual Kringleville event that Waterville Main Street hosts downtown during the holiday season.

A call placed late Tuesday to Charlie Giguere, president of the Waterville Main Street board of directors, was not returned immediately.

Meanwhile, councilors discussed a proposal in the municipal budget to add a full time code enforcement officer assistant position for $55,000, to include salary and benefits, with Bushee saying part of the Waterville Main Street funding could go to that position.

Last year, the council had proposed adding a new code enforcement position in the current budget. At one time that office had 2.5 positions, but now there’s only one — the code enforcement officer position held by Garth Collins. Collins has been stretched thin and doing the work of more than one person, according to councilors.

Roy said he hopes the position remains in the budget this year.

“I hope that’s not one of the items we put on the white board to remove,” he said.

On the heels of the discussion about the proposed code enforcement officer position, South End Neighborhood Association member Paula Raymond read aloud a prepared statement urging the council to fund the new position. She said there are about two dozen vacant buildings in the South End and vacant buildings attract blight and debris, draw critters and unsavory people and contribute to an increase in crime.

South End residents want to help the city help with those vacant buildings, and having an other code enforcement position will be beneficial, she said.

The South End Neighborhood Association considers the vacant building situation an emergency, she said.

“It’s the white elephant in the room that we all need to take a look at and remedy,” Raymond said.

Meanwhile, Fire Chief David LaFountain said during review of the Fire Department budget that the fire tower truck has been out of service about two months, waiting for a part — a swivel that lifts the tower bucket and rotates it. The truck manufacturer in Nebraska keeps two such parts on the shelf and Waterville was the third department to order one, LaFountain said.

“We’ve had expensive repairs, that being one of them,” he said.

The tower truck is an important piece of equipment in that if there is a fire in a tall building such as Elm Towers, the truck could help rescue an older person from an upper story, he said.

“It’s been a good piece for us. It’s a specialized piece of equipment. Unfortunately, it’s got a pretty specialized price tag.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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