HALLOWELL — The City Council unanimously approved close to a half-million dollars in funding for the Water Street reconstruction project during its meeting Monday at City Hall.

The initial appropriation of $381,762 includes about $196,000 for sidewalk lights. The Council also approved an additional $102,000 to extend sidewalk lighting.

“This vote might be considered a culmination” of four years of design, planning and discussion, Mayor Mark Walker said, but “rest assured, we are on the clock” and have a lot more work to do.

Councilor Alan Stearns, chairman of the highway committee, reminded everyone that Monday night’s vote was not the “be all, end all” because there is still two more years before construction begins.

Several in the standing-room only crowd offered comments and suggestions about the Maine Department of Transportation’s plan to reconstruct the commuter corridor. Urban planner Brian Kent of Litchfield gave a 30-minute presentation during the public comment period about curb extensions, and he asked the Council to delay their vote in order to more closely examine his plan.

Stearns said there is still time for curb extensions to be added to the plan if a consensus emerges, but he didn’t think there was a reason to delay the vote on the city funding.

Frank O’Hara, who called himself the “Crosswalk Crusader,” said DOT should be paying for the crosswalk extensions because they are a safety measure, and he reiterated several points he made in an op-ed piece last week in the Kennebec Journal.

The project is estimated to cost $2.8 million, though DOT project manager Ernie Martin said that number would probably rise.

Construction on the project is expected to begin April 16, 2018, and end Oct. 18, 2018, according to Martin. He said the majority of the work during the 155 construction days would take place along Water Street, something that has concerned business owners and residents since the project was announced.

Kent proposed changes to the DOT plan and said the city “hasn’t looked at this project with the detail it should have.” He, like Gerry Mahoney, said the project was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will dictate what happens in Hallowell for a long, long time. Mahoney said Hallowell should not add things to a future project because “we don’t want to be known as Halfway Hallowell.”

Kent also championed the “famous bump-outs,” which are curb extensions designed to calm traffic and increase pedestrian safety. He presented several diagrams to the Council and the attendees, several of whom ceded their time so that Kent could explain his renderings.

Kent outlined his plan for curb extensions during a talk in early April, and several people spoke for and against them during the larger forum with Maine DOT last month. Bump-outs were initially discussed when planning began four years ago, but the safety measure did not have widespread support like it did in the last several months leading up to Monday’s vote.

“It’s important to make this town safer, more pedestrian friendly and more attractive,” Kent said during his 30-minute presentation Monday.

Bump-outs have been touted by Kent and others to increase safety for those crossing Water Street, especially during high-volume summer months, though accident statistics show just 49 reported accidents on Water Street between 2013 and 2015, including nine at the intersection of Winthrop and Water streets.

The Council also addressed several distressed properties, including an occupied house at 21 Academy St. which has no running water and debris on the property. The Council chose to put off any action on the occupied structures until the city has a permanent city manager. Code Enforcement Officer Maureen AuCoin has been the interim city manager since the unexpected death of Stefan Pakulski in March.

The Maine Turnpike Authority presented its plan to replace the Maple Street bridge superstructure in Farmingdale, closing the bridge from June 22 to mid-November. The $1.4 million project includes raising the height of the bridge to provide a 15-foot, 6-inch clearance and repairing the existing abutments and piers.

Councilor Kate DuFour, chair of the personnel committee, said the group whittled down the list of applicants for the city manager position to six, and those candidates will be pared down ahead of the May 23 special council meeting.

The Council meets again in two weeks to review the city budget and to discuss the search for a permanent city manager. Also, Matt Morrill, who bought the Stevens School campus in late April, is expected to outline his plans for the 54-acre site.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

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Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ