WATERVILLE — The city has approximately $1.7 million in hand to spend for coronavirus pandemic relief and wants the public to help decide how to use it.

The City Council on Tuesday will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. at The Elm at 21 College Ave. for that purpose and the public may attend either in person or virtually, using links on the city’s website.

One link is for viewing the meeting and another for registering and taking part. The meeting itself is being held in the council chamber in the basement of the building, with access at the rear of the building.

An executive session to discuss real estate and other matters will follow the public hearing and the regular council meeting will follow the executive session.

City Manager Stephen Daly said Friday that the city has posted a survey on the its website and Facebook page asking the public to pinpoint the types of things they think some of the money should be used for.

“It’s just a general input kind of survey,” Daly said. “The council is opening the door on Tuesday night for the public to come in as either individuals or organizations to give the council some input on how the money should be used.”

Councilors on Aug. 17 considered some possibilities, including giving $1,000 bonuses to city staff and first responders who have been working during the pandemic, but other ideas emerged as well such as support for businesses and the homeless.

The city has been using a document from the National Association of Counties to consider eligible uses for the money, which the city has received, according to Daly. The eligible uses are fairly limited, he said.

“Most of them are areas which local government isn’t accustomed to spending money for,” he said. “We’re venturing into new territory for us.”

Maine municipalities and counties are receiving about $502 million in funding. The money was established to address economic fallout from the pandemic and lay the foundation for a strong and equitable recovery, according to the National Association of Counties document.

Eligible uses, it says, include supporting the public health response by funding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses and behavioral health care; addressing negative economic impacts by helping workers, families, small businesses and industries and rehiring public sector workers; paying essential workers who faced and continue to face health risks; and providing new or expanded broadband access to unserved or underserved areas.

The council, Daly said, is going to consider forming a committee that includes some councilors and members of the public to gather recommendations for spending the money, which must be committed within four years and expended within six.

“They may even use that committee to screen applicants,” he said.

MARIJUANA SHOP

In other matters Tuesday, councilors will discuss an application for a marijuana retail shop at 68 College Ave., the site of a former auto repair shop. The applicant contacted the code enforcement office in March to ask if a marijuana retail shop would be allowed in that zoning district and was told it was, according to Daly.

However, in late June the council voted to establish a “safe zone” around the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter on nearby Colby Street and that zone touches 68 College Ave., he said. The zone is the buffer around the location — 500 feet from property line to property line — and 68 College Ave. is 3 to five 5 in that buffer, he said. The zone prohibits the sale of drugs.

The council plans to discuss how the city can accommodate the applicant, who learned of the safe zone after he had signed a lease for the property, Daly said.

“It may involve procedural gymnastics or it could involve one or more amendments to existing ordinances,” he said.

Daly noted that the city’s safe zone is the first and only “municipal safe zone” established by the council. There are also “statutory safe zones” around schools, parks, playgrounds and churches for which offenses are elevated to a higher level of criminal charges, according to Daly.

OTHER BUSINESS

The council also will consider a resolution by Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, to require that masks be worn by city staff working in city buildings, by visitors to city buildings and by those attending city meetings such as council meetings.

Meanwhile, the city’s police chief, city manager, fire chief and human resources director have been managing the city’s response to the pandemic since it started and following Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines for mask wearing and other safety protocol, according to Daly.

In other matters, Daly said Mayor Jay Coelho plans to ask councilors to refer to the Planning Board for consideration and recommendation a proposal for an adaptive reuse ordinance. Such an ordinance would address the process for identifying buildings, structures and other resources in the city that have architectural, historical or archaeological significance, such as the former Sacred Heart Catholic Church, to be used in ways other than the allowed uses in the zoning district.

Winslow resident and businesswoman Jennifer Bergeron sought to turn Sacred Heart into an events center but pulled her plan after facing months of pushback from residents and others who said it would negatively impact the quality of life in a residential neighborhood and would not be consistent with existing and permitted uses in that area of the city. The property is on Middle and Pleasant streets.

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