WATERVILLE — The Waterville City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday night to sign an agreement with Thomas College that allows emergency workers to stay at campus dormitories during the coronavirus pandemic, if needed.

The city’s agreement with Thomas allows emergency workers, including police officers and firefighters, to live at dormitory rooms if they are healthy but were exposed — or fear they were exposed — to the coronavirus.

City Manager Michael Roy said the temporary housing is for emergency workers who cannot or should not go home until the quarantine period is over.

Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, asked if there is a cost associated with the housing.

“There’s no cost associated with it unless we have to use it, and then we’d be responsible for cleaning,” Roy said during the meeting, which was livestreamed from a link on the city’s website — waterville-me.gov.

Waterville created an Emergency Operations Center in March at the Fire Department for its public safety staff to convene and monitor the coronavirus outbreak. Last month, officials said the center had decreased its hours but would remain in place and ready to increase activity, if needed.

In other matters Tuesday, the council voted 7-0 to adopt a policy regarding access to public meetings, since the public is no longer able to attend in person because of the coronavirus. The public can now view council meetings via livestreaming from a link on the city’s website. Meetings also are rebroadcast on Crossroads local access channel 1301.

The policy the council adopted Tuesday night allows the public to phone in questions during the meeting. Foss said the Waterville Board of Education allows people to call in, and the process works well. He said the council should allow it, too.

A staff member will have to come to council meetings to take those calls and relay questions through the city clerk to the council, according to Roy. A call-in number will be provided during the livestream of the meetings. People may also email questions prior to meetings.

On Tuesday night, the City Council also:

• Voted 5-2 to refer to the Planning Board for public hearing and recommendation a proposal to rezone part of a lot on Webb Road from Rural Residential to Solar Farm District. Roland Rossignol and NextGrid are requesting the rezoning. Foss and Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, opposed the request, saying they do not think solar farms should be in the Rural Residential zone.

• Voted 5-2, with Foss and Mayhew again dissenting, to refer to the Planning Board for public hearing and recommendation a proposal to rezone part of a lot on Lincoln Street, west of Runnals Stream, from Residential-A to Solar Farm District, to allow for construction of a solar farm.

• Approved establishing hours for voter registration and designating a polling place for the primary and referendum election to be held July 14 at Thomas College. If the Harold Alfond Athletic Center at Thomas is not available that day due to COVID-19 restrictions, the election would be held at The Elm at 21 College Ave., according to the resolution.

• Voted 6-1, with Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, dissenting, to award contracts with Teague Distributors of Fairfield, Hammond Tractor Co. of Fairfield and Brookdale Fruit Farm of Hollis, New Hampshire, for $106,000 worth of equipment for the Parks and Recreation Department. The equipment includes two commercial lawn mowers, a tractor and commercial water wheel. The city has already borrowed the money for the equipment, according to Roy. Francke said before the vote the city will be looking at several budgetary shortfalls this year.

• Voted 7-0 to accept a $13,400 Maine Health Access Foundation Grant to buy a fit testing machine for the Fire Department, to be used to ensure respirators fit properly.

Related to the coronavirus pandemic, Foss raised the idea of drafting a letter to Gov. Janet Mills stating Waterville is willing to be part of the discussion about allowing more businesses to open as the state, nation and world continue to deal with COVID-19. He said the letter would be respectful and offer the city’s help in identifying businesses that could open and operate safely.

Francke said he has sympathy for businesses that are struggling and he hopes they can get back to work, but he cautioned the state is still in the danger zone and the virus can be a death sentence, particularly for older people.

“Let’s go safe,” Francke said. “Let’s get the testing going. Let’s make sure we’re out of the woods.”

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