WATERVILLE — The City Council took final, unanimous votes Tuesday night to amend the city’s marijuana ordinance and the licenses and permits ordinance.

The proposed marijuana ordinance amendment clarifies that the city clerk administers the licensing of all marijuana facilities, those fees are collected at the time of application, the fees are refunded if a license is not granted and annual license fees apply to medical marijuana cultivation facilities.

The amendment authorizes the city clerk to administer the licensing of all marijuana facilities in the same manner as all other business licenses and stipulates that annual license fees apply to medical marijuana facilities.

At a Jan. 21 council meeting, Jennifer Bergeron, a marijuana grower and chairperson of the city’s Marijuana Study Committee, had argued that even if the city can license medical marijuana growers, doing so violates confidentiality in the law.

City Manager Michael Roy disputed her assertion at the time, but clarified Tuesday that a grower must be licensed but the grower’s name must be kept confidential.

Waterville City Manager Mike Roy

Bergeron said she would not be able to attend Tuesday’s meeting. Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, asked Roy if she agreed with the licensing issue.

“She (Bergeron) does agree that we are able to license medical caregivers,” Roy said. “When we do license medical growers, we are required to keep that information confidential — that, we will do.”

Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, asked if that confidentiality “survives a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request.” City Clerk Patti Dubois said that it does.

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, said he would vote to approve the amendment.

“I really believe this is really a concrete marijuana ordinance of the first order and I definitely will be voting to approve this,” he said.

The amendment to the city’s licenses and permits ordinance simply adds to it a reference to the marijuana ordinance, and authorizes the city clerk to administer the licensing of all marijuana facilities in the same manner as all other business licenses.

The Marijuana Study Committee was established in September 2018 to study state law on all aspects of marijuana cultivation, distribution, sale, medical uses and other uses to determine if and how the city would add more conditions to the terms of marijuana-related activity.

The council approved the marijuana ordinance April 2, 2019, and amended it Oct. 15, 2019. It became effective Nov. 5, 2019.

The ordinance requires people obtain a license from the city clerk before establishing, operating or maintaining an adult-use or medical marijuana establishment. The seven-page ordinance is available on the city’s website, waterville-me.gov.

 

Other business

In other matters, the council voted 7-0 to approve a recommendation by Mayor Nick Isgro to appoint Tom DePre, a project/property manager, to the Planning Board to fill a vacancy created when Mark Champagne resigned in January. DePre will fill the remainder of Champagne’s term, which ends in 2023.

The council also heard a presentation on the auditor’s report from Nicholson, Michaud and Co., which included a draft of the financials of the city for fiscal year 2019. The unassigned fund balance for the city that year was $5.5 million and the fund balance for the general fund for schools was $1.06 million, a $628,000 increase over the previous year.

The city’s fund balance policy for the past several years has been that the city maintain a fund balance of at least 12% of the budget and the city’s balance was above that at the end of 2019. The city did not use any of the fund balance and added to that balance by about $1.1 million in 2019, according to the report. It says no disagreements arose during the audit, no significant deficiencies were identified and management and staff were very receptive to feedback and requests for information.

Isgro said the city’s debts are down and the reserve is going back up. Roy said the city collected $1.2 million more in revenues than anticipated.

Councilors took a first vote on a request by Kingston Properties LLC to rezone 209 College Ave. — from Commercial-C to Contract Zoned District/Commercial-A — to allow for four apartments there. The vote was 7-0. A second vote is needed at a future meeting to finalize the matter.

Waterville Public Library Board of Trustees President Cindy Jacobs. Morning Sentinel file photo

Isgro said the Planning Board needs to have a more comprehensive zoning discussion, because in this case, a lot would be rezoned so that it is different than surrounding lots.

Cindy Jacobs, president of the Waterville Public Library board of trustees, reported attendance at programs at the library in 2019 was “way up.”

“That means people are coming to the library for the programs that we’re doing and they’re loving them,” Jacobs said.

She said the library is always open to ideas for programs. An adult crafts program at the library has been very popular and draws a lot of older people who are enjoying the program, she said.

Roy reported the city’s project to convert all city streetlights to LED is 75% completed.

“You’ll see the savings in the budget — $150,000 in savings next year and probably more the following year,” he said. “That’s a huge, huge benefit.”

He reported that the process for searching for a city manager has started. Roy plans to retire in December, an announcement he made in April 2019.

“We’d like to report back to you, probably at the Feb. 18 meeting, regarding the plan for moving forward,” he said.

 

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