HALLOWELL — City councilors are expected to vote on a $2.36 million bond package during their meeting Monday, approval of which would send the proposal to a special election next month.

The controversial package includes $600,000 for a Stevens Commons redevelopment project, $585,000 for a Water Street reconstruction project, $535,000 for rural Hallowell road maintenance, $300,000 for downtown parking improvements and $220,000 to restore the fire station’s wooden tower.

The finance committee decided on a single bond package with multiple components, at-large Councilor George LaPointe said, because “the various components of the bond fit together to support the economic vitality and development of Hallowell.”

Not everyone agreed. During a public hearing on the bond Monday, several Hallowell residents argued that having only one bond proposal before the voters isn’t in the city’s best interest.

Ken Young, who has been critical of the way the city has handled the Stevens Commons project, said including each component in one package puts the entire bond at risk.

“A single question also puts the whole package at risk of a negative vote,” Young said. “Most who speak to me say they do not like the one-question approach because they want to make their own choices and set their own priorities.”

He also told the council Monday that the Stevens Commons project is “fraught with risk” because “the developer has little, if any, redevelopment experience; little, if any, major bank or experienced investor backing and little, if any, objective market analysis.”

Young said by spending $600,000 up front, the city is assuming all those risks. “Once the city’s money is in, it has no other option other than to wait passively, potentially for a very long time, and hope for the best,” he said.

Matt Morrill, of Grand View Log and Timber Frames in Winthrop, acquired the 54-acre campus from the state in April for $215,000. He told councilors Monday that he already has invested more money in the property than he asking from the city.

He asked the city for help fixing the roads and sidewalks on the campus, which he said would make the property more attractive to other developers and tenants. His proposal includes turning over ownership of the roads to the city, which then would oversee all maintenance. At Monday’s meeting, he assured the council and the public that the city would own the land it was investing in before any of the bond money is spent.

Several community members said they supported the single bond because it shows the city is serious about investing in itself. Harold Booth spoke about the need for the city’s voters to support the package, especially because of the Stevens Commons funding.

“Finally, someone had the fortitude to make an investment in it, and what (Morrill) paid for the property is nothing, but what he’s putting into it is huge,” Booth said. “It’s all part of fixing the city for ourselves and the future.”

In other business, City Manager Nate Rudy said the council will hold a public hearing about a building at 131 Second St. that it deems dangerous, city department heads will make their funding requests for the upcoming budget and Fire Chief Jim Owens will provide an update on the city’s fire protection services.

The Fire Department was spared when the council voted to save it and move it to a shared, yet-to-be-built station in Farmingdale. But a petition circulated a few weeks after the council’s decision was validated last week, putting everything on hold. A public hearing March 23 will let Hallowell residents give their thoughts on the city’s fire protection services before the council decides whether to change direction on the issue.

According to the charter, the council must decide within 30 days of the public hearing whether to nullify its decision or put that choice to the voters in a special election.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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