HALLOWELL — City councilors approved spending $122,000 to replace a faulty loader for the Hallowell Public Works Department at a special meeting Friday morning.

According to the approved order, funding for the purchase will come from “undesignated fund balance” — or surplus — and $21,679 in Downtown TIF district funds.

Because Downtown TIF district funds must be used for downtown-related expenditures, city officials calculated the downtown district’s property value relative to the entire city’s property value — 17.77% — and paid for that same percentage of the loader with TIF funds.

Councilor George Lapointe said the current loader, which is a 2005 model, was having transmission problems and recently required repairs when the gas pedal “rusted out of its footing.”

The  loader’s cost, $147,000, was offset by a $25,000 trade-in for the old loader. Public Works Director Chris Buck said the new loader is a 2019 John Deere and will come with bucket and fork attachments.

The final vote was unanimous, but other purchase options drew criticism from councilors. City Manager Nate Rudy mentioned that the city could finance the loader instead of paying it all upfront. He said any of the city’s surplus could be used as carry-forward revenue in the next fiscal year, so paying for the loader out of surplus could reduce the potential for more revenue.

Councilor Kara Walker said she was favor spending money for the purchase price, but not on interest; and Councilor Michael Frett said he did not want to take on more debt. Councilor Maureen Aucoin opposed using TIF funds based on problems with the city’s TIFs, leaving her uncertain about how much is available to spend from the balance.

The loader was one of a number of items included in the first budget reading in April that showed an 11.6 percent spending increase. The second budget reading of three has been delayed while city officials finalize figures from the TIF districts. Rudy said in April that a lot of the initial items could seem “discretionary,” but department leaders wanted to include all items they needed and leave it to the council to cut back where it saw fit.

 

Rudy to attend Harvard program

The council also approved Rudy’s attendance in July at a Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. The program’s cost, $16,500, will be offset by a $12,000 scholarship and Rudy trading in a week of vacation, which he estimated at a value of $1,300. The remainder of the cost, $3,200, will be drawn from the city’s training budget in fiscal year 2020.

The vote was 5-1, with Aucoin dissenting because she was concerned that the city would be without a vital employee from July 9 through July 26. Aucoin voiced this same concern when Rudy asked for the council’s blessing in January before applying for the program.

“We are such a small community,” she said Friday. “For three weeks to be missing a city manager, especially during crunch budget times, I have some big concerns.”

Councilor Michael Frett argued Rudy’s physical presence might not always be necessary, as he would have access to a phone and the internet to help out when needed. Rudy also said he would work on a contingency plan for his absence and could return if necessary. 

He said in January he would apply for a scholarship from the International City/County  Management Association, which would cover the entire cost of the course, but Monday said he received a Brooks Foundation fellowship. He said he was excited to attend the program and his interest stems from attending an ICMA seminar, where association members said it was a “life-changing, perspective-changing opportunity.”

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