In late December 2018, Gardiner Mayor Patricia Hart stood outside of a building at the corner of Main and Bridge streets watching it burn. Hart, a consultant, had an office in the building’s second floor that was completely destroyed.

Gardiner Mayor Patricia Hart discusses her agenda for the city in January 2019 at the Gardiner Food Co-op. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

Almost two years later, Hart said that office has been rebuilt, which signals “a story of hope and things getting better.”

“It goes to show that from destruction can come good things and change,” Hart said.

Hart hoped the end of the pandemic could bring a similar type of change for Gardiner, which has seen the openings of nine new businesses since March. Hart said, along with looking forward to “some sense of normalcy” and having children get back to school, that the city will look to complete important projects on its bridges and break ground on a new Boys and Girls Club.

Other central Maine municipal officials are hoping to shake off the pandemic in 2021 and get back to addressing a backlog of items in their towns. Like the rest of the country, the lives of central Maine residents have been altered heavily by the coronavirus pandemic that began in March. The pandemic has forced most municipal business to be conducted via video conference and many municipal buildings to remain closed to the public.

Municipal officials said they were hoping to pick up where they left off before the pandemic and get back to normal, and perhaps celebrate 2021’s milestones along the way.

David Rollins, Augusta mayor

Mayor David Rollins holds up a historical photo of lower Water Street during an Augusta City Council goal setting event Jan. 11 in the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Ph Buy this Photo

Rollins said that his hope for 2021 is that personal attacks and negative comments are less frequent in public discourse.

“It’s so much into our social fabric that young people think that’s the way to get things done,” he said.

Rollins said he hopes to pick up on momentum from before the pandemic, and continue with city development, especially on the north side of Water Street, and build a new station for the city’s police department.

Another issue Rollins hopes to address in the new year is housing and homelessness. Rollins said those issues have put a little pressure on the city’s general assistance, but the real important issue is to get people into safe living arrangements, especially as the pandemic continues.

“We’re having to put people up in hotels because we don’t have a lot of vacancies where we can place them,” Rollins said.

Rollins said he formed a committee of stakeholders to begin working on the issue of homelessness in Augusta.

George Lapointe, Hallowell city councilor and mayor-elect

George Lapointe

Lapointe said that he hopes Hallowell stays vigilant with its response to COVID-19, even though most people are suffering from “COVID fatigue” after a long pandemic. As part of that response, Lapointe said he wanted to make city government more accessible, and more people are able to participate.

“As issues come up, (we want to) make sure that people are aware of them,” he said.

When he is inaugurated as mayor Jan. 4, Lapointe plans to form an economic development committee, which will focus on some long-talked-about issues for the city. While the scope isn’t set in stone, he said grants, rent prices and how to fill empty downtown storefronts may appear in the group’s work.

“I want it to be a relatively short turnaround,” he said. “You hear so much about economic development, we never get past talking about (those issues).”

Lapointe said he also wants to build on the city’s recent diversity and inclusivity training with the IDEA Task Force.

“I think making sure we keep a focus on this is consistent with what Hallowell is,” he said.

Lapointe, a member of the City Council’s Finance Committee, said that he hopes to promote the city’s needs in the state legislature with the help of state Rep. Charlotte Warren, a former Hallowell mayor, and express the need for revenue sharing for municipal budgets.

Sarah Fuller poses for a portrait April 3 while training for a triathlon in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

Sarah Fuller, Winthrop Selectboard chairperson

In 2021, Winthrop will celebrate its 250th anniversary of incorporation, an occasion Fuller hopes residents are able to celebrate.

“I think there’s going to be a universal theme that we all hope to get to the other side of the pandemic and things return a bit to normal,” she said. “For Winthrop, that’s a bit amplified because it’s going to be our 250th anniversary.”

Along with a celebration, Fuller said the town is hoping to have some flexibility in the budget to allocate funding to recreational improvements, like the removal of the old pier that infringes on the Norcross Point swimming area.

“This year, we’ve made plans (and) everything’s gotten delayed,” she said. “A good return to as normal as we can, and then we go from there.”

Fuller said most municipal services have been maintained during the pandemic and valuable lessons have been learned to keep people safe, which could lead to personnel policies in the future geared toward safety.

Bruce Bourgoine, Readfield Select Board chairperson

Bourgoine said the town’s revenues have not fallen “off to a great extent” during the pandemic, despite the town passing an article that allowed the Select Board to dip into reserves if necessary. In 2021, he said, one of the board’s goals is to keep the budget flat in the next fiscal year.

“I think we’re going to try and be aware and sensitive to people’s abilities to pay taxes,” he said. “That seemed to be the (Select Board’s) feeling that that’s what we would like to do.”

Bourgoine said that he was optimistic that the pandemic would get better over the course of 2021, but the year would be “transitionary.”

“It’s not going to be a year that completely reverts everything to be fine and dandy,” he said, adding that he said the government should do its best to serve its community during the pandemic.

Doug Ebert, Farmingdale Board of Selectmen chairperson

Doug Ebert

Ebert said the town’s Board of Selectmen has been meeting in-person, while wearing masks and keeping a safe distance from each other since the pandemic began, something that he hopes ends soon.

“We have to ride the wave and see what we can get through here,” he said. “Just like every other town, we’re riding the wave.”

Ebert said the pandemic has been pretty smooth for town officials, but some projects, like a paving project on Northern Avenue, had to be put off until early 2021.

“We’re just looking to continue the projects we’ve got going and had to put off (other) with everything that’s going on in the country,” Ebert said.

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