A large crowd is expected when the City Council discusses three of the most important issues facing Hallowell during Monday’s meeting.

The first meeting of the new year will start with a joint meeting of the council and the Planning Board as the next step in the Stevens Commons master plan review process. The master plan was deemed complete by the board in September.

After the joint meeting, the next step in the process is for the board to make a recommendation to the council, which ultimately would vote to approve, approve with conditions or reject the master plan. Each step in the process must occur within 45 days of the completion of the previous step.

Councilors Lynn Irish, Kara Walker and Maureen Aucoin-Giroux took the oath of office during Tuesday’s inauguration and will get to weigh in immediately on some of Hallowell’s most pressing issues. Irish and Aucoin-Giroux ran unopposed for seats vacated by Alan Stearns and Kate Dufour, and Walker defeated longtime councilor Phil Lindley in November’s election.

Despite a lack of experience in community government, Walker said she has confidence that she is prepared to tackle the issues facing Hallowell and doesn’t feel any added pressure in being a newly elected councilor.

“There is a lot of pressure on the council, no matter if you are new or not,” she said Saturday by text message. “I have attended many city meetings over the past year and feel as though I have a good handle on the issues.” Walker said knocking on doors during the campaign allowed her to listen to the opinions of many Hallowell residents. She said that while she is a little nervous, she’s done “way scarier things.”

The joint meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the City Hall Auditorium, but the rest of the council meeting is expected to take place downstairs in the council chamber.

The council also will hear reports from two committees that have spent more than a year gathering information and compiling reports on two long-discussed problems.

Parking committee chairman Frank O’Hara will present a report that Mayor Mark Walker said contains answers to the question of how to improve parking in downtown Hallowell. The committee has met monthly since February to come up with recommendations on how to address the parking shortfall during the Water Street reconstruction and the long-term problems of parking shortages during peak times on weekends and in the summer.

Then the council is scheduled to receive a long-anticipated update from the fire services committee. At a meeting late last year, the committee could not reach a unanimous decision on the future of the city’s fire protection services. Three committee members agreed that contracting fire services with Augusta and disbanding the Hallowell Fire Department was the best option, while two committee members thought sharing a station with Farmingdale and operating an autonomous department was prudent.

City Manager Nate Rudy would like the council to vote on the city’s fire protection future services as soon as possible, but he couldn’t say when the vote will happen. It is a decision that the city has been facing for several years, he said, and the protracted discussion has produced information the council can use to make an informed, fact-based choice.

The council also will have the first reading of a $2.54 million bond proposal that includes money to help fund the Water Street reconstruction, Stevens Commons redevelopment and other land acquisitions and infrastructure improvements.

The bond calls for $600,000 for Stevens Commons and Central Street parking, $585,000 for Water Street and $535,000 for rural Hallowell road maintenance. Additionally, $250,000 for a new firetruck, $220,000 for repairs to the wooden frame and tower of the existing fire station and $80,000 for a public restroom on Water Street are listed as alternative items and may not be included in the final proposal.

Stevens Commons developer Matt Morrill has asked the city to help in repairing the roads and sidewalks of the 54-acre Winthrop Street campus. Morrill has met with some opposition from people who say they are against public money going to a private developer.

If the council approves the bond issue, a referendum on it would be held sometime in May or June, Rudy said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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