HALLOWELL — Two members of the finance committee hosted a workshop Thursday in the City Hall auditorium to discuss bond proposals that would provide funding for long-term infrastructure and capital investment for Hallowell.

Chairman George LaPointe led the workshop and described the committee’s plan for a $2 million 20-year bond that would cost the city $130,639 per year.

The discussion among LaPointe, committee member Lisa Harvey-McPherson and those in attendance focused on how many bond issues to propose and how the bonds would be structured.

The City Council had a discussion during its meeting Monday about how to structure a bond package. The city is expected to ask for voter approval to borrow money for the Water Street reconstruction project, the purchase of a space for additional parking on Central Street, the reclamation of three outer Hallowell roads, and the Stevens Commons redevelopment.

There is support for one bond package with all those components, but some people would like to see the private Stevens Commons bond put into its own proposal, keeping the public projects in the other package.

The council ultimately will have to decide whether to lump all the funding into one bond package or request a separate bond issue for each project. There are pros and cons to each approach, City Manager Nate Rudy said.

Lumping all the bonding issues into one package would seem to be an easy option, but it has drawbacks. If all the projects are in one bond package, people who were in favor of some but not all the bond issues might vote no, causing the referendum to fail.

Harvey-McPherson said that the voting process will be interesting because people who live in rural parts of Hallowell would be asked to approve spending $500,000 or more on Water Street or Central Street parking, which might not affect them much. Conversely, someone who lives downtown might be asked to vote on borrowing more than $500,000 on outer Hallowell roads.

The committee’s current plan doesn’t include money for the city’s fire services. The city is awaiting the outcome of a yearlong fire committee review of the city’s fire protection options.

The proposed bond issue includes $585,000 for the Water Street project; $535,000 for the reclamation of Vaughan, Outlet and Town Farm roads; $500,000 for Stevens Commons; and $85,000 for contingency. There is no bond component asking for $1 million for a new fire station and firetruck or $400,000 to renovate the existing Second Street fire station.

LaPointe said the council expects to vote on proposed bond terms at its January meeting. Incoming councilors Lynn Irish, Maureen Aucoin-Giroux and Kara Walker will be charged with either supporting or opposing borrowing $2 million just a week after being sworn into office.

Before the workshop, Rudy hosted a forum on public financing for community economic development. Morrill and Landmark Engineering owner Mike Sabatini shared their vision for Stevens Commons as a mixed-use development with commercial and office space, senior and veterans housing and small, clustered subdivisions.

“It will be a landmark development that will revitalize and re-energize a piece of Hallowell’s past,” Morrill said. “I can’t do it without (the city’s) help, and I’m asking for it again.”

After Morrill and Sabatini’s presentation, John Holden, a community economic development expert with more than 25 years of experience, said he thinks there’s everything in place to make Stevens Commons a valuable project. But he admitted the project comes with some risk.

“It’s called a partnership, and there is risk from the private side and from the public side,” Holden said. “The partnership is important, and I’ve seen it work; but I’ve also seen it not work primarily because the two sides didn’t go for it together.”

Holden said it’s not uncommon, especially in Maine, to have public-private partnerships, especially involving properties that used to be publicly owned. Because the property exists in Hallowell’s downtown TIF district, the city can redirect new tax revenue from the project to help pay for the project.

Ken Young, a Hallowell resident and former director of the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, wondered if it was common for developers not to disclose their financial viability or not to have a completed housing study; but Morrill said everyone knows how much he paid for the property, and he doesn’t think spending money on a housing market study is necessary.

“I don’t get the feeling we need to spend the money on the housing market survey,” Morrill said. “I talk to people all the time who want more housing in Hallowell or who want to move to Hallowell.”

Morrill said he hopes the city will make a decision on whether to provide financial support for the 54-acre campus’s redevelopment, because he needs to start getting back some of the investment he’s made in the property since it was acquired for $215,000 in April from the state.

“We need to make a decision, like Matt said, sometime soon so we can move this thing forward,” Rudy said.

Rudy said he hopes this would be the first of many city manager forums on special topics related to Hallowell business.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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