HALLOWELL — Fresh off a three-week program at Harvard, City Manager Nate Rudy said Monday that he has short- and long-term projects for the city.

During Monday’s City Council meeting, Nate Rudy said he was “deeply grateful and appreciative” to the City Council for allowing him to attend the program. He added he brought back ideas for projects in the city.

In May, city councilors approved letting Rudy attend the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. The vote was 5-1, with Councilor Maureen Aucoin dissenting because she thought it would be a detriment to the city’s operation to have Rudy out of the office for three weeks.

During short interviews in his office Tuesday and Wednesday, Rudy called the program “very intense.” He said attendees worked daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. He said he and more than 70 other students discussed numerous topics in government, including courses on the Founding Fathers and the Federalist Papers. He said one of the days included an outdoor, team-building activity. On top of in-class work, he said there was about 100 pages of reading to do each night. He described the program as a “short course in advanced civics and government.”

Rudy said the Harvard course renewed his interest in rural economies, which he said took a back seat to educational opportunities that taught him how to become a better manager.

“Those interests have always been there, but I think I’ve shifted my personal focus to learning to become a City Manager,” he said. “I’ve invested a lot of my time in that, and rightfully so, and now I would like to invest more time in getting back to those things that have always been important to me.”

He said most of Hallowell’s development would likely be centered on the east side of Interstate 95. Rudy said there are some opportunities for development within the north gateway of Water Street and said he was looking at a potential rezoning of the area. He said the development of market-rate apartments could tap into the “walkable, neighborhood feel” of downtown Hallowell. Anecdotally, Rudy said, the market rate for a one-bedroom apartment in Hallowell is $800-$1,200. He said these sort of developments would attract young professionals who value location over living space.

Decisions about future developments would not be made by him, Rudy said, adding that discussions would have to take place with a number of parties to determine Hallowell’s route forward.

Development west of the highway, an area that is more rural than the rest of the city, he said, is a little more complicated. Rudy said he often thinks about the best way to develop the western, rural half of the city. He said there was an opportunity to revive dormant farmland, especially because local, organic farming is having a slight resurgence in the state.

“I wonder if it’s possible to see that farmland back in use,” Rudy said. “It’s very difficult to make a farm profitable.

“I think you could see agricultural development there (because) there’s a renewed interest in farming,” he added. “There’s an enormous opportunity for greenhouse or controlled-environment agriculture in the state.”

Rudy said there is “potential for housing developments” west of the highway, but it was not favored in the current comprehensive plan.

“We do have some sewer and water infrastructure out that way,” he said. “I’m not sure that’s a goal or priority … right now.”

At Monday’s City Council meeting, where the city’s budget was finalized, resident and former City Council Lisa Harvey-McPherson expressed her concern with a rising tax rate. She said was worried about multi-generational families not being able to pass properties down because taxes were too high.

Rudy said he related with Harvey-McPherson’s concerns, but he felt the budget was accurate to the city’s need.

“(City staff and the City Council) are not in the business of penalizing people with taxes,” he said.

Councilors cut about $120,000 from the final reading of the budget money, including money for a culvert project. When asked if deferring capital projects would have an effect on next fiscal year’s expenditures, Rudy said he didn’t have an idea about how the next budget would look.

“The good news is we have a lot of new value at Stevens Commons,” he said, adding that developer Matt Morrill has done a good job with development at the commons.

Construction of a new dormitory for the University of Maine at Augusta is winding down at Stevens Commons.

As for short-term projects, Rudy said he would be “digging into” the city’s financial procedure. He said he wants to create a manual outlining the city’s budget procedure.

Last year, a new budget process was floated by Rudy after an error. That plan called for the final budget reading to take place in June, but it did not happen until Aug. 12. Rudy told the Kennebec Journal in July that the benchmarks set last year were going to be “an evolving process.”

He said he would collaborate on the manual with other city staff members, and the document would make the budget process more transparent for citizens and employees in the future.

“I just want to have a manual of our procedures for revenue and expense tracking, and tracking milestones throughout the year,” Rudy said, “so it’s very clear for anyone to understand our process and increase transparency.”

He also said he would reevaluate his approach to engaging with Hallowell’s citizens. Rudy said he was thinking of reviving city manager’s forums on topics like economic development, and volunteering at local organizations like Spectrum Generations. He said that would help him get his “own impressions and experiences with citizens.”

The Harvard program, which ran from July 9-26, cost $16,500. Of the cost, $12,000 was paid for through a scholarship and $4,500 came from Hallowell. Rudy traded in a week of vacation, which he estimated at a value of $1,300, to help defray the city’s expense, and the remainder of the cost, $3,200, was drawn from this fiscal year’s training budget. Rudy said he was paid his salary during this period, as he would be for other professional development opportunities.

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