Phil Bofia, former Waterville city councilor member and current City of Waterville charter commission member, center, stands between a counter protestor, right, who chanted “All lives matter,” and a march participant, at left, who chanted “Black lives matter, left, during a rally at Head of Falls Sunday June 7. The rally followed a George Floyd remembrance march through downtown Waterville. Waterville Chief of Police Joseph Massey, right, escorted the unidentified man away from the rally. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file Buy this Photo

WATERVILLE — A former city councilor who led a peaceful march recently in which police participated is asking city councilors to support a resolution denouncing police violence and brutality against people of color, affirm that black lives matter and reaffirm that Waterville is a welcoming community.

Phil Bofia, who is African American, is asking that, as part of the resolution to be presented Tuesday to the council, councilors work with police and community leaders to understand the steps police have taken and can take to provide effective public safety and ensure accountability to city leaders and the community.

Bofia, a current Waterville Charter Commission member, led the solidarity march June 7 honoring George Floyd. Floyd, 46, died May 25 after Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, 44, knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes as Floyd was handcuffed and on the ground, saying he could not breathe. Floyd, who is Black, was pronounced dead at a Minneapolis hospital.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday to consider Bofia’s proposed resolution and discuss city budget matters.

The public may view the meeting via a link on the city’s website, waterville-me.gov.

Meanwhile, Bofia and Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey plan to work together to form a coalition of people, including African Americans, who will look at what policies are in place regarding police training, education and the like, and help the public become more aware of and understand what is being implemented now. They also hope to bring about positive change, according to Bofia.

“What we’re trying to do is keep the momentum of what started as a march and the cooperation with the police department and police chiefs around the area, and put together something tangible that will result in some change,” Bofia said Friday in a phone interview.

Bofia  said the group will also discuss other issues, including the perceptions police and others have of African Americans and other minority communities in that same effort to effect positive change. He emphasized that he and others appreciate that Massey and area police chiefs are receptive to the effort. The police department, he said, has been very involved and willing to participate.

Joseph Massey, police chief of the Waterville police department, takes a knee in solidarity with protesters to police brutality June 1 during a protest at the police station in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

“Chief Massey has been great,” Bofia said. “I’ve been in constant talks with him.”

With all that has occurred in the last several weeks around protests and marches, Bofia said he thinks this is a great moment in which people are opening up and feel they can be more vocal with their thoughts and concerns, and express them to each other.

“I’ve seen so many people just change their perspective because they have a chance to reflect and review the information,” he said.

Massey said Friday that he contacted Bofia and they are planning to meet Tuesday with three or four other people to begin discussions about forming a coalition to review police policy, training and procedures and review what is in place in the area of city government and education. They will discuss the purpose of the coalition, set an agenda and identify stakeholders who would be invited to take part.

“We are going to continue to talk or look at things we can do in our community to help bridge the gap and address the concern the African American segment of our community has,” Massey said. “I’m very hopeful that this kind of builds the momentum of what’s going on.”

Massey noted that it would be the first meeting to start the discussions.

“I had contacted Phil the day after the protest at Head of Falls to say this would be a good time when discussions are going on across the country to address issues and that we just not lose this opportunity to discuss and engage …”

Bofia submitted a request Monday to the council, asking it to officially support the resolution concerning the Black Lives Matter issue. He copied Mayor Nick Isgro and City Manager Michael Roy on the email:

“Where it has been increasingly evident that we must all come together as one to help our communities move forward in these challenging times, I would like to propose the resolution below to be passed by the council with the support of all city officials,” Bofia’s email says, “showing our community that we stand with the oppressed and recognize the need to reaffirm that we are a welcoming city to all.”

Bofia’s proposed resolution says that Black lives matter and the Waterville Police Department has denounced actions taken by the four Minneapolis police officers involved in the murder of Floyd. Waterville, it says, “strives to be a welcoming city where all people can feel protected, included, secure and safe.”


Meanwhile, a message posted Wednesday on the city’s Facebook page says that Bofia’s request was received Monday, after the agenda for last Tuesday’s council meeting had already been set. To add the item to last Tuesday’s council agenda, councilors would have had to waive cloture, which means they would vote on whether to take up an item not listed on the agenda.

“While the council has done this a fair amount recently with other items, it should not become a normal part of the way the council conducts its business,” the post says. “It is important for both councilors and the public to be aware in advance of items that will be discussed at the meeting so that councilors can discuss those items with each other and with their constituents. The council chair and Mr. Bofia discussed these concerns and agreed that in the interest of allowing time for those discussions, the council will be taking this item up at a special meeting that has been scheduled regarding the budget on June 23rd. In the meantime, we certainly encourage concerned citizens to reach out and express their views to their elected officials.”

Roy said Friday he thinks it is a good thing that Massey plans to form a coalition to understand what is in place and what might be missing, if anything.

 

OTHER COUNCIL MATTERS

Councilors on Tuesday also will consider voting to approve a resolution declaring an emergency and then decide whether to authorize spending authority from July 1 until the city budget is approved. The funding level would be the same as provided in the 2020-21 fiscal year budget.

Roy explained that the city charter says a budget must be in place by July 1, the start of the city’s fiscal year, but the budget will not be in place by then.

“I think twice in the last three years we’ve done this exact thing — delayed it in order for the numbers to be made clear,” Roy said Friday. “It is delaying final budget adoption so we can see how we ended this current budget year in terms of our spending and our revenues. It looks positive. It looks like we’ll end the current budget year with a surplus, mostly because of spending reductions during the year. We haven’t spent all money allocated or appropriated.”

He said he thinks that in two weeks officials will know what the city will have received in the month of June. State revenue sharing, however, is not expected to be known for several weeks, according to Roy.

“We don’t know yet what our state revenue sharing will be like for the next budget year,” he said.

The council also is scheduled to consider taking the first of two votes needed to issue a general obligation bond for capital improvement projects. The amount the council will consider voting on Tuesday is $3.93 million, though councilors could change that amount.

Roy said it is important councilors take a first vote Tuesday, even if the amount is still in question. They may take as much time as they need after that to take a final vote, he said.

Proposed capital improvements include $300,000 to pave taxiway A at the city-owned Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport, $250,000 for a police firearm training range, $2 million for public works equipment, Trafton Road reconstruction and Main Street reconstruction, $1 million for parks and recreation equipment, facility upgrades, and Alfond Muncipal Pool replacement, and $300,000 for fire department needs, including rescue equipment, engine refurbishing, a utility truck, floor scrubber and building repairs.

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