WATERVILLE — The Waterville City Council pushed back the first vote on a proposed municipal and school budget for 2020-21 Tuesday night and amended a proposed $4.03 million bond package for capital improvements, adding back in $250,000 for a police shooting range.

The meeting was held in-person and was available to the public through a livestream online and at the Mid Day Cafe at the Mid-Maine Technical Center at Waterville Senior High School.

The decision to postpone the first vote was made after Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, suggested that the council wait for budget updates from the state as well as revenue sharing.

“(We should) table this until we get more information in order to make an intelligent decision,”  Francke said.

City Manager Mike Roy said that it takes two votes in order to move forward with the budget and encouraged the council to move forward with the first in order to avoid problems getting tax bills out to residents after Aug. 1, he said. With the way council meetings fall, the first August meeting would be on the fourth.

“We are not going to know anything more about state revenue sharing (on Aug. 4) than we do today,” Roy said.

Mayor Nick Isgro added that if bills aren’t sent out, the city has no money coming in. After discussing further, the council ultimately voted 4-3 to postpone the decision to the next meeting on July 17.

The Waterville Board of Education took a first vote April 27 to approve a $25.7 million proposal, and will take a final vote after the council finalizes it and the municipal budget.

The school proposal represents an $843,647 increase to the 2019-20 budget, but requires $30,444 less in local taxes than was needed this year.

The council in July 2019 approved a $42.7 million municipal and school budget for 2019-20. That budget had a e tax rate of $25.76 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The council is also scheduled to consider a final vote on July 17 to approve issuing general obligation bonds for $4.03 million. The council took a first vote June 23 to approve the proposal.

The council voted 4-3 to amend the bond to reflect the addition of $250,000 for a police firearms training range. The bond was previously $3.93 million.

Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, said at the meeting that it was appropriate for the police to have their own area to train consistently in order to gain muscle memory and accuracy.

“The police need a place of their own to do their training effectively,” Foss said. The department currently practices at a range in Winslow, where they have to set up and remove their equipment after each use, he said, adding that if a facility is in Waterville, the council can consider opening it to the public with membership fees later down the road.

Some councilors questioned this rationale as they have previously allocated $100,000 to this and wanted to know when the request for additional funding would stop. The combined $350,000 would allow for a classroom building and storage area at the facility.

Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey said that officers are required to spend six days a year at shooting ranges to practice, though his officers practice as often as they can, and, with their own range, they could practice more often.

“We do a lot of tactical and dynamic shooting,” Massey said. “… we need a much bigger area than what the Winslow range provides us. We have no access there during winter months.”

All of the police training is done at the Winslow range, he said, but it is becoming difficult as they want to do more specific training that cannot be done at that facility because the equipment must be taken down in-between sessions.

Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, said that he is concerned about the cost when looking at other areas in town that need improvements, including the fire department, library and public works equipment.

“I’m not opposed to it, but in my mind I am trying to justify this,” Thomas said.

“There is no police department in the area that trains like Waterville,” Isgro said. “Even in surrounding towns, when our folks are called into an active shooter situation, nobody understands how to navigate the way (Waterville Police Department) does because of the way (Massey) has worked to train them. I think when we’re talking about these officers going into an active shooter situation, putting their life on the line, that is the justification.”

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