Mayor Nick Isgro, right, commends police Chief Joseph Massey, center, and Deputy Chief William Bonney, left, as well as other staff on Tuesday for the work they do as part of Operation HOPE. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — Councilors on Tuesday voted to approve an emergency medical services agreement between the city and Delta Ambulance, as well as a land lease with the Alfond Youth & Community Center, which wants to build a community ice rink.

The emergency medical services agreement is a plan to have both the Fire Department and Delta provide transport services. The Waterville City Council approved the agreement 6-0. City Manager Michael Roy and fire Chief Shawn Esler said the agreement had been a long time in the making.

“We think this is a document that represents a fair deal between Delta Ambulance and the city,” Esler said.

He said there are private-public partnerships elsewhere in the state, but this is the first of its kind as a “sophisticated response plan.”

Councilor Sidney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, commended the collaboration, calling Delta an “icon” in the city and region.

“It’s just totally off the charts,” Mayhew said. “Again, this is a great agreement that I just fully support.”

The Alfond Center wants to build a community ice rink on city-owned land between the public pool and Alfond Center on North Street. The lease approval would allow the center to conduct a capital campaign to raise money for the project.

Ken Walsh, chief executive officer for the Alfond Center, said earlier Tuesday that Doug and Rita Sukeforth pledged $1 million to the rink project and Colby College donated an estimated $1 million worth of rink equipment from the rink at the Alfond Athletic Center on campus which is scheduled to be razed because a $200 million athletic center has just been completed and opened. The total cost of the ice rink for North Street is not yet cast in stone, according to Walsh.

“The Alfond Youth & Community Center and Central Maine Youth Hockey are looking to continue to raise funds for the arena that might be up to $4 million, but more estimates will come back from the contractors,” Walsh said.

Equipment donated from the Colby field house includes boards, glass, a refrigeration system and other hockey-related equipment, he said.

The council’s vote Tuesday was the first of two needed to approve a 99-year lease for the property. The Alfond Center itself is on city-owned land, for which the center has a 99-year lease with the city. Walsh said the lease approval, as well as a full endorsement from the Alfond Center’s board of directors for the project, are needed before fundraising can start.

“I think it’s going to be a great addition to the city, with everything else we’re doing,” Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, said he did not have a copy of the lease. Roy said the council must take another vote and he will make sure that Francke and Councilor Flavia Oliveira, D-Ward 2, both of whom attended the meeting remotely, would have a copy of the lease. Roy said it had just been finalized Tuesday afternoon.

Francke asked if the youth center has a business plan for the rink. He also asked how it will be operated and how much access the community will have to the rink.

“There is definitely a business plan that’s been developed by the Alfond Youth Center and Central Maine Hockey, working together in concert,” Roy said.

Mayhew called the project “extraordinary” and a “win-win situation.”

“This is a no-brainer folks — it has my support,” he said.

Francke asked if there will be a cost to the city for the project — whether the city would “get stuck, as it usually does, filling in the cracks.”

“There will not be any cost to the city,” Roy said. “All utilities and all of that will be paid for by the Alfond Youth Center and Central Maine Youth Hockey. We’re not expected to do maintenance or any other work. We don’t have any financial exposure, really.”

Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, said the city has a longstanding relationship with the Alfond Center and other facilities that have operated similarly.

“Never has the city been obligated to maintain those facilities,” he said.

In other matters, the council voted 6-0 to accept an $80,000 grant from a Bill and Melinda Gates-funded foundation to support planning and operation of safe and secure elections. A second vote is needed to finalize acceptance.

The funds would be used for election-related administration needs, including nonpartisan voter education; personal protective equipment for staff, poll workers and voters; absentee voting equipment; supplies; and additional temporary staffing.

Councilors voted 5-1 to approve amendments to the marijuana ordinance, with Francke the lone dissenter. Roy had told the council an offer had been made on a city-owned lot off Airport Road by someone who wants to establish a marijuana growing operation, but the city does not allow that in the Airport Industrial Zone.

Roy said the council could either refer the zone change request to the planning board for recommendation on whether to rezone, or the council could add to the marijuana ordinance the Airport Industrial Zone as a permitted zone for marijuana growing. Councilors said they wanted to add the amendment to the ordinance, but Francke said marijuana rules are just beginning to take effect, yet the city keeps coming back with “this little change and that little change.” He said he objected to dropping the ordinance change request out of the blue.

“I’m just getting a little bit tired of always talking about marijuana regulations and the city is faced with so many other issues,” Francke said.

“Maybe you should bring those other issues up, because this is what’s in front of us,” Mayor Nick Isgro shot back.

Meanwhile, the council later in the meeting voted to delay deciding whether to refer to the Planning Board a request to rezone part of Airport Road from Airport Industrial District to General Industrial to allow for a marijuana growing facility to be built there until its next meeting.

Councilors also voted 6-0 to award a $173,273 contract to Ranger Contracting Inc. of Fairfield to grade and cover lagoons on West River Road near where a police firearms training range is to be developed.

The city hopes to build the range with $350,000 in borrowed funds, part of which will be used for the lagoon work. Police Chief Joseph Massey said afterward that he thinks the range can be developed enough to be able to use in November.

Isgro read aloud a proclamation and commended Massey and Deputy police Chief William Bonney, staff and volunteers who have helped to make the police department’s Operation HOPE program a success. HOPE, which stands for Heroin Opiate Prevention Effort, is a program focusing on enforcement, education and treatment, with treatment being the primary focus. As part of the program, the police department tries to place people who ask for help with opiate addiction into residential treatment programs.

Since the program was launched in January 2017, the program has helped 220 people, many of whom have gone on to become productive members of their communities, according to the proclamation.

Bonney administers the program which is coordinated by police Officer Robert Bouley, Detective Chase Fabian, Officer Ryan Dinsmore and Officer Linda Smedberg, who also is a school resource officer.

The proclamation says volunteers are the backbone of the program. Called “volunteer angels,” they help police to place those suffering from substance abuse disorders into residential programs.

The council also took a final vote to accept part of Lafayette Street as a city street; a first of two needed votes to accept an $11,837 grant from Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund for trail work at Quarry Road Recreation Area; and voted to refer to the Planning Board a request to rezone 435 West River Road from Residential-B to Rural Residential. The change would allow owner Rick Breton to minimize wetland disturbance when designing an access road from Webb Road to a proposed new mobile home park between Countryside and Village Green mobile home parks. The Planning Board would recommend whether to rezone, with the council making the final decision.

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