WATERVILLE — The City Council on Thursday will consider dissolving a controversial coronavirus subcommittee that had been meeting in secret and taking illegal actions.

Councilors would instead empower the city manager to spend emergency funding and call council meetings with 24 hours’ notice.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. and will be live-streamed via a link on the city’s website, waterville-me.gov. The public is not allowed to attend the meeting in person because of the state’s mandate that more than 10 people may not congregate in one location to ward against the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Waterville City Manager Mike Roy

The council will consider an amendment to an ordinance that would dissolve the COVID-19 subcommittee and authorize City Manager Michael Roy to spend up to $150,000 from the city’s fund balance to respond to coronavirus emergency needs.

Of that amount, $120,000 would be used for personnel, $20,000 for personal protective equipment and supplies and $10,000 for food.

Other significant decisions, such as whether to implement a city curfew and the like, would have to be put before the council for consideration, according to Roy.

Originally, a task force that later was named a subcommittee with fewer members made an illegal decision to close bars and restaurants March 16 with no notice, a decision City Solicitor William A. Lee III said only the council has authority to make. The committee also was meeting without allowing the press and public to attend, in violation of the public access law for such a gathering of public officials, according to Lee.

Roy said Wednesday that he, Mayor Nick Isgro and Council Chairman Erik Thomas, who were co-spokesmen for the task force/subcommittee, had a long conversation with Lee earlier in the day.

Roy thinks they reached an agreement about what constitutes meetings requiring public notice.

“I feel very good about that going forward, that we’re all on the same page regarding our understanding about requirements for public notice,” Roy said.

Councilors on Thursday also will consider approving an amendment to an administrative ordinance that allows for city council meetings to be called with 24-hour notice.

“There’s no provision in our current ordinance to call a special council meeting with only a 24-hour notice,” Roy said. “The state allows that provision regarding public notice. What we’re doing is just incorporating that state-approved law into our existing ordinance.”

The council also will consider taking a second, final vote on an ordinance to suspend the city’s plastic bag ban for stores 10,000-square-feet or larger until Jan. 1, 2021. As part of the vote, the city would urge shoppers to refrain from using reusable bags or to clean and-or disinfect them between uses.

The council on Friday voted 5-1 to suspend the plastic bag ban, with Councilor Claude Francke the lone dissenter. Councilor Flavia Oliveira, D-Ward 2, was absent from the meeting because flights to the U.S. from the Cape Verde Islands, where she was visiting family, were canceled due to the coronavirus emergency.

Because Friday’s vote was not unanimous, another vote is needed to approve the bag ban suspension, according to Lee. Mayor Nick Isgro had argued for suspending the ban until Jan. 1, 2021, but Francke proposed suspending it only until the coronavirus emergency is over.

Also Friday, the council voted 5-1 to trim the number of members on the COVID-19 subcommittee in an attempt to allow the panel to continue meeting in secret, a move Francke, an attorney, said he could not support. He voted against the idea, saying such meetings should be public.

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