AUGUSTA — A three-way race for a Ward 3 City Council seat pits a former councilor against two men who have run unsuccessfully for the council before.

Seeking to return to the council is Stanley Koski, who served two terms on the council from 2002 to 2007, and who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2006. He faces challenges from Jarody, who previously has run for City Council and the Legislature, and Harold Elliott Jr., who ran for the council in 2012 and who also served on the Manchester Budget Committee when he lived in that town.

Koski, 71, a retired electrical engineer who, for some 31 years, voluntarily maintained city-owned street lights and traffic lights in Augusta, said he enjoyed his six years on the council and wants to return now that he is retired and has plenty of time to dedicate to city business.

“I’m a fiscal conservative and I think my past record on the council demonstrates that,” he said. “Any government entity should run as cost-efficiently as possible. I’m not suggesting I could cut property taxes by 20 percent — that’d be absurd. But I will spend as much time and effort as possible making sure the city gets things done in the most cost-efficient way possible.”

Jarody, 32, who uses only one name and who is self-employed in odd jobs including building repair, said he’s running because he is concerned with the direction the council has been headed in over the last few years.

“There’s an opiate crisis we’re facing right now, and I’ve lost a few people I know and love,” he said. “While this is going on, the City Council is focusing instead on things like a property maintenance ordinance, they tried to prevent lawn sales from being a permanent thing, and, with the city debacle over the St. Mark’s thing, I honestly believe the church is going to end up suing Augusta. And you know what? They’re right to. The city passed a moratorium interfering with the way the church conducts business.”

Elliott, 62, who works for VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus, said he’s running because he’s interested in seeing the city move forward and wants to help the downtown continue to be revitalized.

“I like the idea of what’s going on downtown now. I remember it as a young fellow, with all the stores and restaurants down there,” he said. “With all these malls, we’ve lost our downtowns. We need to bring some businesses and entrepreneurs in, give them a helping hand.”

The St. Mark’s issue mentioned by Jarody involves church officials’ effort to sell the prominent property, which abuts an also-prominent west side neighborhood. City councilors and neighborhood residents have expressed concern about the property potentially being sold and turned into a homeless shelter or something similar, prompting city councilors to adopt a moratorium on certain types of development in multiple city zoning districts.

Jarody said the council erred, and acted immorally, in interfering with the potential sale of the church with the moratorium. He believes some council members voted for the moratorium because they don’t want something like a group home, shelter or soup kitchen next to the city’s recently renovated and expanded Lithgow Public Library.

Elliott said he doesn’t think the city should be involved in telling a religious organization what it can do with its buildings. He said there probably is no perfect place in the city for facilities such as soup kitchens and similar social services, and hunger and homelessness remain things the city needs to work on.

Koski said the city needed to put a moratorium in place because of a lack of clarity in city zoning rules about facilities such as group homes and homeless shelters. He said he hopes something can be worked out that would save St. Mark’s Church from demolition, allow services offered at the church property — which now include food, clothing and essential items — to continue, without harming the neighborhood.

Koski said he’s an advocate for restoration of the Colonial Theater on Water Street in the city’s downtown. He supports the council’s decision to commit $300,000 to the now vacant, privately owned theater’s estimated $6 million restoration project. He said he likes the fact that the city will give the money to the project only after the remaining money is raised from other sources.

Jarody said the city should provide the $300,000 to the Colonial Theater now, when it can help directly fund construction, not after the project is finished. He is confident the restoration project will get done, in large part because of the involvement of Richard Parkhurst, a local developer who is spearheading efforts to restore the theater.

Elliott said the city is wise to watch out for taxpayers in ensuring their money —the $300,000 — isn’t handed over to the Colonial Theater nonprofit group until it is clear the project will take place. He said a restored theater could be a boon to the city’s downtown.

Other issues Elliott cited as important for the city include getting landlords, especially absentee landlords, to fix up their properties, and working to promote the city.

“I’m a down-to-earth guy, a common-sense guy, and if we’re going to spend money, I want to spend it wisely,” Elliott said of why residents should vote for him. “I’m not scared to ask questions. I like to have all the information before I make a vote or decision.”

Koski said initiatives going on now to revitalize the downtown are a step in the right direction to help create jobs and improve the local economy. He said a lot of older housing in the city’s Sand Hill area is in bad shape and the city should look for ways to help improve that housing.

“I think experience counts and familiarity with the city counts,” he said. “When a major decision comes up for a vote, I feel before voting ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ you should look both at the financial costs of it but also the financial and other consequences of not doing it. Being an analytical type of person, I’d look at it from both those perspectives.”

Jarody said the best way for the city to help improve the local economy is to stay out of the way of small businesses.

“I care about where this community is headed and I bring a different view to the council, of someone who is younger but also who lived through a lot of the rough patches here in Augusta,” he said.

Ward 3 consists of the northern portion of the city west of the Kennebec River. The election is Nov. 8.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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