WATERVILLE — City councilors on Tuesday took unanimous first votes to accept $10,000 from Colby College to hire a parking enforcement person and increase parking fine amounts.

They also took a final vote to accept a $7.37 million federal grant for downtown improvements.

About 50 people turned out for the meeting, held in the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons.

Colby offered the $10,000 for parking enforcement after businessman Ken Vlodek, at a parking study committee meeting last month, expressed frustration that students living in the new mixed-use residential complex downtown park in front of his business, Yardgoods Center, taking spots away from customers of his and others’ businesses.

Two votes are required to finalize acceptance of the $10,000 Colby gift, and the council is expected to consider a final vote later this month.

Colby is investing millions of dollars downtown, and the city is planning for traffic changes and improvements; and when they are completed, officials plan to develop a downtown parking management plan. Colby also has offered to fund a study to redesign The Concourse, a large parking area downtown.

Mayor Nick Isgro said it was gracious of Colby to step up and offer the $10,000.

“I encourage the council to vote in favor of accepting this money,” he said.

Council Chairman Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, agreed.

“This is really a great positive first step in getting our parking enforcement off the ground and going,” he said.

Colby’s $10,000 will help alleviate parking problems in the short-term, according to officials. Police Chief Joseph Massey recommended at the parking study committee meeting last month that the city increase parking fine fees. Councilors Tuesday voted 7-0 to increase the $10 fees to $25 and the fine for parking in a parking space for the handicapped, from $50 to $200. They will consider a final vote later this month.

The council took a first vote Jan. 15 to accept a BUILD grant for $7.37 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to implement Waterville Downtown Transit Corridors, Gateways & Revitalization Project. Councilors voted 7-0 Tuesday to finalize the acceptance.

The grant is to be used to improve roadways, sidewalks, intersections and public green spaces downtown that will serve to divert through traffic away from Main Street and improve pedestrian access to and within the downtown district. Two votes are needed to make acceptance of the grant final.

In other matters Tuesday, councilors voted to support a legislative initiative to name the bridge over Interstate 95 on upper Main Street the Specialist Wade A. Slack Memorial Bridge. A Waterville native, Slack died in Afghanistan on May 6, 2010.

The Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Transportation earlier Tuesday considered the bill, L.D. 39, to name the bridge, but did not vote, as it needed council approval first. Thomas R.W. Longstaff, longtime state representative from Waterville who left office last year after his term limit was reached, came up with the idea for naming the bridge for Slack and spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting, as well as at the Augusta meeting. The bill is being presented to the Legislature by Rep. Colleen Madigan, D-Waterville. The council voted 7-0 to support the naming of the bridge for Slack.

Councilors also heard a report on the city’s financial report dated June 30, 2018 and was told it was a clean audit and that there were no difficulties in dealing with city and school officials, who were helpful to auditors.

Isgro read a proclamation recognizing the Fire Department and the work firefighters performed at a fire Jan. 29 at the Huhtamaki plant on College Avenue.

City Manager Michael Roy announced that Linda Fossa, the city’s health and welfare director, will be retiring in March after more than 38 years of working for the city. He said she was an exemplary employee who has been composed and conscientious in a position that is challenging at times, and she will be missed very much.

“They don’t make them like this anymore,” Roy said.

Councilors for many years have sat facing the audience in order of their Ward numbers, one through seven, but on Tuesday that was not the case. While councilors Mike Morris, D-Ward 1, Phil Bofia, R-Ward 2, Mayhew and councilors Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, and Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, were in the wards 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 seats, respectively, Jay Coelho, D-Ward 5, was sitting in the seat usually held by the Ward 3 councilor and Councilor Margaret Smith, D-Ward 3, was sitting in the seat usually held by the Ward 5 councilor. Essentially, they swapped positions.

Asked why the change was made, who requested it and who made the decision to do so, Isgro said he made the decision as he thought it was good to “mix it up.”

“I think it’s beneficial for people to move around,” he said.

Ward 1 resident Sharon Labbe presented councilors with 1,667 names of people on a petition asking Colby and Thomas colleges to contribute funds voluntarily to help lower  the the city’s tax rate. The petition effort was started by Oakland resident Mark Andre.

Resident Rien Finch asked Roy why the city’s recycling truck was not working. Roy said a hydraulic hose froze and burst Monday and the city is waiting for the part.

“We seem to keep fixing this truck, and I really want to recycle,” Finch said.

Roy said he thinks the city is through the worst of the truck problems, and the truck has a 3-year warranty.

 

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]
Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

 

 

 

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