AUGUSTA — Among the items in the city’s proposed $2.9 million capital improvement plan for next year is a proposal to buy a portable stage for $80,000 to replace the old gazebo which was removed from the west side waterfront park in the spring.

The 20-plus-year-old gazebo previously at the downtown park fell apart when repairs were attempted on it by city staff, so it was removed. Once it was removed, it can’t be replaced, according to Leif Dahlin, community services director, because it is in the floodplain where new permanent structures aren’t allowed under federal law.

The gazebo was initially due for about $7,000 worth of improvements. But Dahlin said when workers tried to level the wooden structure, it started to come apart. The city’s code enforcement office and Robert LaBreck, facilities manager, then both agreed the gazebo was no longer usable due to its deteriorated condition.

“Unfortunately, we could never replace that gazebo with another, because it is in the floodplain and you can’t do anything of a permanent nature there,” Dahlin said.

As an alternative to replacing the traditional-looking, covered gazebo, city officials propose to spend about $80,000 to buy and outfit a self-contained portable stage which will be brought to the park and other venues in the city for performances.

Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, said the type of stage the city is looking at would be self-contained and on wheels, so it can be folded up and towed by a pickup truck to other locations where it is needed.


Dahlin said the portable stage won’t be kept at the waterfront permanently, but will be brought there for concerts and other performances in the park. He also said it could be used for other events, such as concerts or other events on Water Street, in parks, or anywhere else a professional-quality stage is needed.

Ward 2 City Councilor Darek Grant said he initially had “some heartburn” over the gazebo being removed from the park, though he noted there were some concerns it was an attractive spot for troublemakers to hang out. He said the new portable stage would be a great investment and helpful in fulfilling people’s wishes for more cultural events in the city.

The proposed stage purchase is part of the city administrator’s recommended capital improvement plan for 2017.

It and several other projects would be paid for with a proposed $750,000 bond councilors could authorize. Councilors, each year, are allowed by the city charter to borrow up to that amount without seeking voter approval.

City Manager William Bridgeo said funding to pay next year’s payments on that proposed bond was already included in the city’s current year budget.

Bridgeo said the plan proposes $2.9 million in projects, generally major improvements which are expected to last for a relatively long time, compared to more minor projects and maintenance items which would be funded as part of the annual budget.


Of the $2.9 million in funding for the projects, $1.9 million would be paid for with proceeds collected in the city’s Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, accounts, and thus have no direct impact on the property tax rate. The primary funding source would be natural gas TIF money.

The city established a natural gas TIF in 2011, as competing gas companies Maine Natural Gas and Summit Natural Gas of Maine began installing gas lines in Augusta. The companies pay the city property taxes on the gas lines.

While some TIFs are used to return taxes paid on new development to the developer, in this case the city receives all the proceeds from the natural gas TIFs. Collecting tax revenues in a TIF allows municipalities to use those funds for specific uses allowed under state law, including infrastructure, downtown revitalization or economic development projects. By sheltering such money in a TIF, municipalities avoid reductions in state aid to education and other negative tax impacts which would take place if the new value in the TIF were simply added to the city’s total valuation instead of being sheltered in a TIF.

The longer-term proposed capital improvement plan goes out five years and, Bridgeo said, averages about $3.5 million of projects a year, most of it funded from TIF proceeds.

“One of the reasons we’re able to do this without a tax increase is our TIF programs, principally the gas TIFs,” Bridgeo said. “So with all the inconveniences and issues we went through (when gas lines were installed under many city streets) with gas, there is a plus side. With our ability to shelter dollars, we get to use 100 percent of the taxes those companies are paying — and they’re paying a lot in taxes — for improvements. That’s the upside. I think we can be proud of that as a community, because we’re staying on top of our long-term important capital improvement needs.”

Other major projects proposed to be included in next year’s capital improvement plan include $650,000 for paving on multiple city streets; $300,000 for ditching and pavement preparation on Cross Hill Road; $320,000 for architectural and engineering costs in planning for a future major expansion and renovation to Hartford Fire Station; $250,000 in repairs to the front entrance of Augusta Civic Center; $100,000 for a planned update to the city’s comprehensive plan; $120,000 for new sidewalks; $225,000 for road and sidewalk work on Commercial Street; and $250,000 to upgrade the fire alarm at Buker Community Center.


The Buker fire alarm upgrade will bring the fire alarm system to the entire building. Bridgeo said the state inspector who recently inspected the building told city officials the system needed to be extended throughout the building due to the presence of the city’s child care program in the building.

Of the $250,000 total cost of that upgrade, $191,000 will be paid from the child care program’s fund balance, built up from revenues generated by the program in previous years.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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