WATERVILLE — The Alfond Youth Center has paid Waterville a little more than $27,000 as part of a building expansion permit fee the city previously had discounted.

Controversy over the discount prompted the youth center’s president and chief executive officer, Ken Walsh, to offer to pay the full amount if the city deemed the process used for that discount was inappropriate; and last week he paid the remainder, according to City Manager Michael Roy.

At a City Council meeting Jan. 2, Paul Lussier, a developer who builds houses, criticized the city for giving the youth center a $27,000 building permit fee discount for a family wellness center addition to the North Street facility, charging only about $3,000 instead of $30,700.

The youth center had approached the city a few weeks ago to ask whether it would consider a discount. Code enforcement officers took the request to Roy and they discussed it. Roy asked them if the city had granted such a discount in the past for a nonprofit organization, which it had — to the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter for a shelter addition.

Roy decided to charge the youth center 10 percent of the total building permit fee of $30,700 for the wellness center expansion, as it had done with the homeless shelter. The wellness project includes renovation of the licensed after-school program and children’s kitchen, which serves 100,000 free hot meals annually to mostly Waterville children. More than 80 percent of those children qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. The addition also will include a teaching kitchen, a community indoor track, and nutrition and youth wellness programs for seniors, adults and children.

The Harold Alfond Foundation granted $6.1 million for the project and the youth center is raising another $500,000. The wellness center is targeted for completion next summer.

Roy said Tuesday that Walsh went to City Hall on Jan. 15 and paid the remainder of the permit fee, which was a little more than $27,000.

“They were very willing to pay the fee, given the amount of concern that it had caused,” Roy said of center officials. “They didn’t want to have any further bad feelings between the city and the Alfond Youth Center, so they willingly came in and paid that amount.”

Lussier is chairman of the city’s Planning Board, but he said at the council meeting Jan. 2 that he was not speaking on behalf of that board.

He criticized the decision to discount the permit fee, saying taxpayers are entitled to fair and equal treatment.

At the time, Roy acknowledged the fee discount should have been a council decision and apologized. He said the youth center feeds many children who have nothing to eat, built the $1.4 million Purnell Wrigley Field for the community and provides measurable benefit to the community in many ways.

Walsh said Jan. 3, the day after the council meeting, that costs for construction of the addition escalated over the past year because of increased steel and other prices, and the center asked the city to consider a discount but was not sure if it would be granted.

“Truthfully, if the process was not appropriate, the Alfond Youth Center will pay the full construction permit fee,” Walsh said at the time. “We are thankful that City Manager Mike Roy really considered the discount.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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