WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday voted 5-0 to appoint members of a search committee to find a new city manager to replace Michael Roy, who plans to retire at the end of the year.

Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, abstained from voting and confirmed after the meeting that he has applied for the position.

The council will make the ultimate decision on choosing a new city manager. A council subcommittee comprising Mayor Nick Isgro and city councilors Mike Morris, D-Ward 1, and Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, recommended all councilors serve on the search committee. Thomas will not be a member, since he is a candidate.

Besides five councilors — the Ward 3 seat remains vacant — those recommended by City Manager Michael Roy and chosen to serve on the committee include police Chief Joseph Massey, Waterville’s human resources officer Bobbi-Jo Greene, City Clerk Patti Dubois, City Solicitor William A. Lee III and Sarah Bowen, executive assistant to Roy and Isgro.

The council voted 5-0 Tuesday to officially exclude Thomas from serving on the committee.

Councilor Flavia Oliveira, D-Ward 2, nominated John Robinson for the panel; Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, nominated Chris Gaunce; Isgro nominated Volodymyr Kurylo; Morris nominated Marilyn Canavan; Francke nominated Lisa Evans; and Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, nominated his wife, Rebecca.

All were appointed. Morris noted that Paula Raymond from Thomas’ Ward 7 expressed interest and was the only person from that ward to do so. The council also appointed Raymond to the panel, whose first meeting is scheduled for Wednesday. Councilors decided not to appoint Jay Coelho and Phil Bofia to the committee, as they plan to run for mayor and the council wants to keep the process apolitical.

Lee said there is nothing that prohibits Foss’ wife from serving, noting that councilors make the final decision on who is hired as city manager.

“I don’t see a problem,” he said.

The city received 70 applications for the position, and they are being whittled down to a manageable number that the council will interview. The city hired David Barrett of the Maine Municipal Association to help with the search process.

Jennifer Bergeron, left, and Erica Pelotte, owners of the Lion’s Den Tavern, listen to a Waterville City Council meeting Tuesday from the overflow room at Mid-Maine Technical Center. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

As part of the vote Tuesday, councilors adopted a timeline for that process that says the committee will review resumes during the month of September and recommend final candidates to the council for interviews; that the council will start interviewing final candidates in October; and that a candidate will be selected by Nov. 1.

In other matters Tuesday, the council voted 6-0 to authorize Roy to award a $101,159 contract to Protection Professionals of Falmouth for a complete municipal fire-alarm system. As part of the vote, Waterville fire Chief Shawn Esler is authorized to purchase additional fire alarm boxes from Protection Professionals, not to exceed the total project cost of $200,000.

The new fire alarm system replaces an antiquated fire alarm system which consists of buried cable, according to Roy.

Councilors on Tuesday also took a final vote to adopt an emergency powers ordinance that gives the city manager power to declare an emergency when a disaster or civil emergency exists or appears imminent, and take action necessary to prevent loss of life and property in the city.

The council voted 5-1, with Francke the lone dissenter, to award a contract of $55,725 to Lakeside Landscaping to repair Two Cent Plaza at Head of Falls off Front Street. Funds would come from the city’s waterfront bond and capital improvement reserve fund.

The council voted 6-0 to sell a lot in the Airport Business Park on Airport Road to Daniel Smith for $60,000; councilors voted 5-1, with Francke dissenting, to extend outdoor dining for the Lion’s Den restaurant in Haines Park on The Concourse to April 1, 2021; and they voted 6-0 to authorize a municipal election for Nov. 3 and establish hours for voter registration.

Foss prompted a discussion about the practice of continuing to hold council meetings via Zoom, with some councilors meeting in person and others from their homes.

“I’m basically wondering when we can all get in the same room,” Foss said.

He said he happened to be at a restaurant and saw “one of you” coming out with a mask on. He was referring to Francke and Oliveira, who have been joining council meetings via Zoom. Foss said councilors are spaced 6 feet apart in meetings.

“I just don’t understand why we can’t all be in the same room,” he said.

Francke explained that he attends meetings remotely because he is one of those people “in mortal danger” of the coronavirus because he is immune compromised and “old.”

He noted that no one on the council wears a mask at meetings, and he is not prepared to risk his life to attend meetings in person, particularly when he has been able to attend remotely and participates as he would in person. Foss asked him if there is a threshold for state statistics that would change Francke’s position.

Erica Pelotte, center, and Jennifer Bergeron, right, wait in a hallway of Mid-Maine Technical Center on Tuesday for their opportunity to address the Waterville City Council. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“Is there something that you’re looking for as far as a number of cases vs. number of deaths?” Foss said.

Francke reiterated that he did not see anyone at the Mid-Day Cafe, where the council met Tuesday, wearing masks and that means he would be in danger there. Oliveira said there’s no reason why she can’t go in a restaurant, because she finds that they operate under “the code,” referring to health and safety guidelines. Like Francke, she said councilors have not been wearing masks.

“I don’t feel comfortable just yet,” she said.

The council agreed to meet next time in the former Congregational Church on Eustis Parkway which is available for use until spring, and then councilors will decide if it fits meeting needs. Roy said the former church space would also allow livestreaming and recording equipment to remain there and not have to be packed up and moved after every meeting.

In another matter, Roy reported the city’s dual packer recycling and trash truck broke down last week and was sent to Bangor for repair. Since last week, city workers have been combining both curbside recyclables and trash and taking it to Waste Management in Norridgewock. Thomas said for the next two weeks, if residents want their recyclables to be recycled, they should either hold on to them until the truck is fixed or take them to I Recycle on Armory Road, where the city has a contract.

In another matter, Thomas noted that some residents have expressed concern about a protection from harassment order that neighbors of Planning Board member Cathy Weeks filed against her, alleging she harasses them, photographs them and says racist things to them, including that they should go back to the country they came from. Thomas said with a legal process underway, Weeks is entitled to due process and while that process plays out, it is not appropriate for him to comment on the issue.

“The council takes it seriously,” he said. “We are aware of it. We heard their (residents’) concerns at this point.”

Oliveira asked if Weeks will continue to serve on the Planning Board.

Isgro said that unless she steps down, he saw no reason why Weeks would not attend meetings. He said the issue involves allegations between neighbors.

“Cathy and her neighbors are going to have to go through their due process,” he said.

Diners sit Tuesday in the extended outdoor seating for the Lion’s Den Tavern at The Concourse in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

But Oliveira said Weeks represents the city and perhaps she should step down until the court case is heard.

“She’s still in the public eye and she still represents the city,” Oliveira said.

Thomas said that, whatever one’s opinion, Weeks is entitled to due process.

“It’s really her decision if she wants to continue on the Planning Board or not,” he said.

The city charter says a board member can be removed “for cause” by a 2/3 vote of the council, but it does not define “cause.”

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