When Gardiner elected officials meet Wednesday, they are expected to discuss what the city’s next steps should be following the resignation of the city’s recently hired economic development and planning director earlier this month.

Gardiner Mayor Patricia Hart discusses her agenda for the city Jan. 19 at the Gardiner Food Co-op. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Mayor Patricia Hart asked for the discussion to be put on the agenda, and she has invited city councilors to weigh in.

“Economic development is very important,” Hart said, “and we need to maintain and grow the tax base.”

Gardiner had a full-time economic and community development director until the end of 2014, when Nate Rudy — now city manager in Hallowell — left after three and a half years in that position to take the executive director’s position at Waterville Creates!, a collaborative group established to promote Waterville as an arts destination.

At that time, then City Manager Scott Morelli proposed not filling the position as a cost-saving measure. He proposed distributing the tasks of that position among other city officials or outside contractors, as part of a plan to close a $500,000 budget gap. Eventually, the city struck a deal with Gardiner Main Street. Patrick Wright, the former executive director of Gardiner Main Street, assumed many economic development duties; Morelli took on others.

When Wright stepped down a year ago from the the downtown development organization, Gardiner Main Street opted not to continue with the economic development contract.

That prompted some debate among city officials. They opted to fund an economic development and planning director for part of the year after discussing the merits of contracting with an organization like the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments. At that time, they were also in the midst of a search for a city manager and opted to wait to make a decision about hiring an economic development director until that position was filled.

In October, the City Council authorized City Manager Christine Landes to advertise for and fill the position. After a national search, Thomas Fiorelli was hired.

When he announced a week ago that he was resigning, Fiorelli said he had several concerns including an increasing budget.

His position, initially funded through June 30, is included in the proposed budget that city elected officials are now debating.

At their last meeting, councilors asked the city manager and department heads to craft some scenarios of what cuts to the proposed $6.35 million budget would look like. At its current level, the city’s spending plan is expected to increase the property tax rate by 5.8%.

Hart said that when the prospect of hiring a full-time economic development and planning director was raised last year, residents testified in favor of having the position filled, and members of the City Council also supported it.

Elected officials are also expected to:

• Hold a public hearing and consider renewing the liquor license for Cobbossee Aerie #4330 F.O.E./Eagles Club

• Present the 2018 Annual Report in memory of Jean Traquair Dellert, whose sons are expected to be present to accept the report

• Discuss, evaluate and possibly approve List B and C of sewer abatement requests and abatement request from Jack Skehan

• Consider allowing Hoppy Days LLC to restart its five-year agreement with the opening of a new business in the site of the former Craft Beer Cellar by Oct. 1

• Consider approval of annual victualer license renewals

• Consider approving and signing the Gardiner-area school district warrant and notice of election

• Accept the minutes of the May 8 meeting

Two executive sessions are scheduled for the end of the meeting, one for a sewer abatement request and the other for consultations between city officials and their attorney about a code enforcement issue.

The Gardiner City Council meets 6 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council Chamber at 6 Church Street.

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