AUGUSTA — Councilors are split on whether the city should begin exploring the creation its own homeless shelter as part of its goals for this year.

Only one councilor said outright the city should do so, during a Thursday discussion of the proposed goals for the year. Others expressed support for partnering with others to do so, and still others indicated the city shouldn’t spend money on a shelter but could support the homeless in other ways.

Some of the proposed goals for the year are related, if not identical, to goals from previous years.

A goal last year was to put out a request for developers interested in developing new housing and commercial space at the city-owned Kennebec Locke property, the former Statler mill site on the east side of the Kennebec River. The city did put out such a request last year, to develop the northern end of the property, but received no proposals in response.

A proposed goal for this year is to accelerate infrastructure development at Kennebec Locke, including exploring building a new road into and through the site to provide access to it and potentially make it more attractive for development.

On the question of a homeless shelter, Ward 1 City Councilor Linda Conti suggested that the city starting and operating its own shelter should be a goal in large part to gain control of where such a facility is located and operated.


“My aspirational goal is to have a city-owned homeless shelter, professionally staffed, located in a location where an expert tells us is the ideal place to locate it,” Conti said. “If not (city-owned), then say city-regulated. If we don’t want to own or sponsor them, maybe we could just say enhance city regulation” of homeless shelters.

Ward 3 Councilor Harold Elliott said he doesn’t object to homeless shelters, but he doesn’t think the city needs to be involved.

“I don’t think the city of Augusta needs to be in the business of running a homeless shelter,” Elliott said. “We’re in a budget crisis, and God knows what the cost of running a homeless shelter would be to the city.”

At-large Councilor Marci Alexander said she’d rather the city collaborate with a private entity that wants to start and run a new homeless shelter.

The only existing homeless shelters in the city are run by Bread of Life Ministries. They are a 12-bed veterans’ shelter and a 26-bed family shelter that is often full and many nights turns away people seeking a bed.

City Manager William Bridgeo, after hearing councilors debate the issue extensively Thursday, said he sensed no majority support on the council to appropriate money for a homeless shelter.


However, a homeless shelter-related goal still could make it into the council’s final goals for the year.

The potential homeless shelter-related goal was one of about 15 goals resulting from a nearly daylong goal-setting session of councilors last month. Bridgeo said he would modify the proposed goals to reflect input from councilors Thursday and bring the goals back for further review at another informational council meeting.

Meanwhile, Mayor David Rollins said spurring development at Kennebec Locke has been one of the city’s goals for several years running.

Some development is proposed on a small rear portion of the Kennebec Locke property, a three-building, 29-unit apartment complex planned by the Augusta Housing Authority. However, the project faced adamant opposition from many residents of Maple Street, with many of them saying the residential street is not adequate to provide access to future commercial and residential development of the Kennebec Locke property.

Bridgeo said the city’s goal-setting process, in his 20 years with the city, has never been about setting goals that are all meant to be accomplished within one year.

“I’ve never seen a year when we hit them all,” he said of the process, which has been overseen by Hallowell consultant Frank O’Hara. “If we got them all, there is something wrong with the process. They were all softballs. It’s not often there is a process where everyone is in agreement. And it’s never the case where (all goals) get achieved.”


But Bridgeo said the goals are important in providing guidance to him and other city staff members on their priorities as they plan and take action on behalf of the city.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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