HALLOWELL — The City Council will not support a city manager-proposed, city-funded parking shuttle that would help downtown businesses bring customers to Water Street during an upcoming street reconstruction project.

At their monthly meeting Monday, the seven councilors all agreed that they couldn’t support the proposal to appropriate without knowing how much use the shuttle would get and whether business owners would be willing to contribute anything to offset the cost.

“I think the shuttle service would have value, but it’s a lot of money to spend on something we don’t know if it’ll get used or not,” Councilor Kara Walker said.

City Manager Nate Rudy asked the council to approval allocating up to $60,000 of tax increment financing to pay for the shuttle. The van is priced fairly, Rudy said, but the majority of the cost would be to pay two temporary employees to drive the shuttle for 10 hours each day, seven days a week.

“I think it’s a solid proposal, and I think it would work,” Rudy told the council. “In a lot of communities, the city would act as a partner (not sole contributor) in something like this.”

Rudy said several concerned residents, Hallowell Area Board of Trade officials and downtown merchants met with him during office hours in late February to talk about the possibility of a shuttle service. Without city support now, trade official Cary Colwell said Monday that she’d be going back to downtown businesses to see if they’d be amenable to some type of cost-sharing arrangement.

“There’s a lot of concern about customers being able to access the businesses during the construction season,” she said. “If we don’t get any money from the city, we’ll have to go back to the businesses and see what we can come up with.”

The Maine Department of Transportation will begin rebuilding a 2,000-foot stretch of the busy downtown Water Street corridor — which also is U.S. Route 201 — in April. The multimillion-dollar project is expected to be completed in October, meaning downtown businesses that rely on the influx of customers throughout the summer season will be affected.

Councilor George LaPointe, chairman of the city’s finance committee, said he was surprised when he heard about the shuttle proposal, calling it raw and undone.

“I think it needs more development before I can support it,” LaPointe said.

Lisa Harvey-McPherson, the councilor representing Ward 5 in rural Hallowell, said the money in reserve in the TIF fund is intended to help mitigate the city’s risk related to the Water Street reconstruction project. Until the DOT begins digging up Water Street, there is no way to know whether additional infrastructure work will be needed, and some of the cost of that work would fall on the city. She didn’t support using that money to fund a parking shuttle.

Neither did councilors Lynn Irish and Diano Circo.

Irish, who owns Whippersnappers quilting shop on Water Street, said she thinks the parking shuttle would be a great idea if it worked and people would use it, but she wouldn’t ask Hallowell taxpayers to fund it.

Circo said there are other projects in Hallowell that the TIF money would help better. He said the parking shuttle doesn’t rise to the level of some of the other things, which he didn’t identify.

Rudy told the council that he found a 10-passenger van, a 2007 Ford, that was in adequate shape but needed minor repairs. He envisioned the shuttle running daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. from April until October, or about 30 weeks.

Rudy said he wasn’t surprised or disappointed in the council’s decision, and he thinks there will be opportunity for further discussion.

“I think they had a considered discussion about it,” Rudy said during an interview Tuesday. “Their rationale was consistent with decisions they’ve made in the past about what to fund with TIF money.”

While Rudy waits for the board of trade and other interested parties to put their heads together to find a way to make this work, he’ll focus his efforts on parking.

“I’m going to focus on finding spaces within reasonable walking distance of downtown,” he said. “We’ll keep working on it.”

In other business Monday, the council approved another 180-day recreational and retail marijuana moratorium as it continues to wait on guidance from the Legislature on how to govern the sale and cultivation of cannabis.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.