HALLOWELL — The City Council discussed whether or not to impose a moratorium on marijuana-related businesses during Monday’s meeting.

Mayor Mark Walker said there have been a number of people from the public and a handful of merchants who have asked about a potential moratorium for Hallowell.

Voters in Maine legalized the recreational use of marijuana last month, and since then, cities and towns across Maine have been meeting over and, in some cases, instituting policy changes to prevent marijuana businesses or social clubs from popping up in municipalities after Jan. 1.

A recount requested by legalization opponents is currently in its second week, but election night totals show the question passing statewide by 4,073 votes.

Hallowell voters passed Question 1 873-755, according to Hallowell City Clerk Diane Polky.

City Manager Nate Rudy said that because of the recount, there is no immediate concern about deciding on a moratorium or marijuana policy for the city.

“It seems like there is some time for council to discuss a moratorium or move straight to discussing new policy,” Rudy said. Once the recount is complete, Rudy said, it could be several months before the state’s Department of Agriculture comes up with any policies or standards regarding recreational use.

“The only purpose of the moratorium would be to give you more time to determine what your policy is,” Rudy said.

Councilor Alan Stearns said he wonders if people could begin applying for marijuana-related permits to “get in line” in anticipation of the November election results being sustained. But Councilor George LaPointe and Michael Frett don’t think that a person may be able to apply for something that doesn’t yet exist.

“Waiting for a bus at a bus stop that isn’t built yet is absurd, and lining up for something that’s not there strikes me as not the right thing,” LaPointe said. “Until we open the door on this, don’t send in an application.”

Councilor Lisa Harvey-McPherson proposed continuing the discussion at January’s meeting, assuming the recount has been completed. She said if the vote was sustained, an issue like this would be put through the committee process before coming before the full council.

“My hunch was that we didn’t need to do anything, but I wanted to have the discussion,” Walker said.

Later in the meeting, the council approved Drummond Woodsum as the city’s new provider of general and specialized legal services. Rudy received competitive bids from nine law firms throughout Maine, and he said each firm offered a unique proposal with a different array of benefits to the city.

“All of the proposals were very good, and each of them had their merits and their own pricing structure,” Rudy said. The overall package from Drummond, including costs, made the firm the most attractive candidate, Rudy said, and the firm also represents Regional School Unit 2, which includes Hallowell.

Drummond Woodsum, a 67-attorney firm founded in 1965, will charge Hallowell $175 per hour for general municipal work, $275 per hour for specialized work and $120 per hour for paralegal work.

Currently, Rudman Winchell senior counsel Erik Stumpfel serves as the city’s attorney, and his firm has been working with Hallowell for more than five years. Rudy said Stumpfel may continue working with the city in a limited capacity when the need arises.

The council also discussed upcoming proposed bonding issues and whether there should be just one bond package or a package for each project. The city is weighing bonding issues for the Stevens Commons redevelopment, Water Street reconstruction and Central Street parking and maybe for fire services.

The city’s finance committee will make a recommendation to the council prior to January’s council meeting on whether to have one bond package or one bond package for each project.

The finance committee will host a workshop on bonding Thursday to further discuss public funding for the Stevens Commons redevelopment, the Water Street reconstruction project and Central Street parking. The workshop will be preceded by a forum on public financing for community economic development hosted by Rudy.

John Holden, a former executive development director in Lewiston-Auburn and Rockland and president of the Economic Development Council of Maine, will speak at the forum about how public financing for community economic development is done around the state. Rudy said the forum will also allow the city and Stevens Commons owner and developer Matt Morrill the opportunity to clarify their understanding of the discussions up to this point and to clarify the gap between the city’s idea of providing financial support for the project and the amount of funding that will be provided by the developer.

In other business, the city discussed a $17,000 bid by a research company in Yarmouth to conduct a housing market survey intended to provide valuable information about the viable uses of the Stevens Commons property and influence the direction a developer might take to develop the property. The finance committee will make a recommendation to the council before January’s meeting.

The meeting was the last for councilors Phil Lindley and Alan Stearns. Lindley, who has served for the last 15 years, was defeated in his bid for another term last month by Kara Walker, and Stearns did not seek re-election. Councilor Kate DuFour was not at Monday’s meeting and did not seek re-election. Stearns and DuFour will be replaced by Lynn Irish and Maureen Aucoin-Giroux, respectively.

Hallowell will swear in the newly elected councilors during a Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, inauguration. The council meets again Monday, Jan. 9.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

 

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