HALLOWELL — The chairman of the city’s downtown parking committee told the City Council on Monday that people who live on Water Street should pay a small fee each year for a permit to grant them long-term access to parking in the busy downtown.

That was one of 18 recommendations on how to improve downtown parking from the committee, crafted in advance of next year’s Water Street reconstruction project, said committee chairman Frank O’Hara.

Among the other notable recommendations:

• Residents with parking permits should receive text alerts from the city during winter storms about upcoming plowing

• The city should sign leases with private landowners who would allow public parking on their property

• The city should continue to maintain a part-time parking enforcement officer

The lack of parking has been a complaint for decades, Mayor Mark Walker said. He said he hopes the recommendations made by the parking committee after 13 months of work will have a positive effect on downtown businesses for future decades.

In other business, the council got an update from the fire services committee. The committee has worked for more than a year to come up with a recommendation for the city’s fire protection services, and chairman Bob Duplessie said a report should be completed and submitted to the city by the end of the week.

“It’s been a longer process than what we wished it would be,” Duplessie said. “Whatever option they choose will cost more than our current system.”

Duplessie said the report will be a consensus, not unanimous report, because three members favor contracting fire protection services with Augusta, while two members support sharing a station with Farmingdale’s department.

Hallowell resident Peter Gray supports a third option, the preservation and strengthening of the city’s Fire Department, but that option doesn’t appear to be one the council is considering. Gray said it would set the course for the future core services in Hallowell and said the department is key to the community’s public safety and is as important as the city’s Police and Public Works departments.

The council is expected to vote during the special meeting at the end of January. Fire Chief Mike Grant announced his retirement and is working on an interim basis until a decision is made, and City Manager Nate Rudy said several other decisions in Hallowell hinge on what the council decides about the Fire Department.

Earlier in the night, a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 100 listened and discussed the Stevens Commons master plan and related bond proposal.

During the two-hour session, people expressed concern over the master plan’s alignment with Hallowell’s comprehensive plan and over the proposed retail development on the Stevens Commons campus. Eric Perry said one of the comprehensive plan’s stated goals is to limit retail development on the campus. He added that he is afraid that retail would compete directly with downtown businesses.

Carl Booth, however, said he was saddened to hear about people not wanting retail competition. He said the downtown district is vibrant enough to withstand additional businesses at Stevens Commons and said light retail would be convenient to residents who’d be living on the campus. He also noted the businesses in Gardiner and Augusta that are competing with Hallowell businesses, and he said Hallowell can’t be in a “bubble.”

The application process began in September when developer Matt Morrill submitted his vision for the 54-acre campus on the top of the Winthrop Street hill.

The Planning Board must make a recommendation to the council within 45 days — possibly at its Jan. 18 meeting — and then the council will vote to either approve, approve with conditions or deny the master plan.

The council approved the first reading of the $2.36 million bond package, which includes money for Stevens Commons, the Water Street reconstruction project and repairs to some rural Hallowell roads. The council will hold a special meeting Jan. 26 for the second reading of the bond, and the third and final reading would happen during the regular February council meeting.

A special election is expected to be held sometime in the late winter or early spring so that work may take place during the upcoming construction season.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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