WATERVILLE — The City Council this week took a first vote to borrow $5.28 million for capital improvements despite objections from two councilors that $1.9 million for parks and recreation is included in the package.

Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, proposed an amendment to the bond that would have removed the funding for parks and recreation, much of which is meant for a major transformation of the North Street Recreation Area and Pine Ridge Recreation Area.

“This is a matter that is putting us, I think, in a dangerous fiscal position,” Francke said at Wednesday’s council meeting. “This is something that has popped right up out of nowhere in the past couple of years.”

The city proposes to spend $660,000 on North Street Recreation Area improvements, $847,550 on the Pine Ridge Recreation Area, $220,000 on Green Street Park, $90,000 on Grove Street Playground and basketball court, and the rest of the $1.9 million on other parks and sites.

The North Street plan would include moving youth soccer fields from North Street to Pine Ridge off West River Road so that the Alfond Youth & Community Center can build a community ice arena where the soccer fields are located now on North Street. The Alfond Center is raising money to build the arena.

Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, agreed with Francke and seconded his motion for the bond amendment. He said that while the parks and recreation changes are needed, spending that amount was not discussed when the council had initial talks about the budget this year.


“Do we need to do it all in one lump sum?” Foss said. “No. Spread it out. Take your time. Don’t rush it.”

But Councilor Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, said that while she shared concerns about spending, the parks and recreation plan is an important investment in the city.

“I do support this bond, and I don’t think we should delay it, in particular the rink project,” she said, adding that removing the funding would “torpedo” the rink plan. Children and teenagers need activities to do in the city, she said.

“I do think it will attract people to come to live in Waterville instead of just visit,” she said.

Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, said the most compelling argument in opposition to the bond amount is the need for housing in the city, which must be addressed.

“I do think this is the right sequence,” Klepach said. “Fixing the housing problems and giving the parks department the really needed infusion of new life that this bond has — they do go together.”


Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, said the parks projects will grow in cost if the city waits to start them. When the rink project was proposed, it made city officials look comprehensively at all the city’s parks and recreation facilities, Thomas said.

“It really is the fiscally responsible thing to do,” he said.

Mayor Jay Coelho said Parks and Recreation Director Matt Skehan “has presented us with a beautiful idea for our parks.”

“This is the right thing to do,” he said.

Francke’s proposed amendment failed 5 to 2.

The council later voted to start the bond process, which requires a second vote to finalize. Foss said he approved the measure “because I want Green Street Park (improvements), and I want our roads.”


A dog park, athletic fields and softball field are now located at Pine Ridge and as part of the plan the dog park would be relocated, the softball field updated, a paved parking area built, new restrooms and concession buildings constructed, and lighting installed. On North Street, the basketball court would be resurfaced, tennis courts expanded and new lights installed. Three-season restrooms would be added, shade structures built and new playground equipment installed.

At a public hearing on the bond before Wednesday’s council discussion, South End Neighborhood Association Chairwoman Anna Holdener and Rien Finch, a member of Friends of Green Street Park, spoke in support of the parks and recreation funding. Jesse Wechsler, president of the Waterville Youth Soccer Association, also spoke in support.

As part of the bond, $1 million would be used to improve streets in the South End, $167,850 would be spent for sidewalks in that part of the city, $300,000 would buy a second dual packer truck for citywide use, $200,000 would buy a street sweeper and $318,000 would be used for annual paving. A new furnace for City Hall would be purchased for $100,000, $106,000 would go toward police vehicles, $176,000 for police body cameras, $200,000 for work at the airport, and $150,000 for improvements at the fire department.

In other matters, councilors voted to award a $94,908 contract to Jordan Equipment of Hermon for a mini-track excavator with attachments for public works. The council took a second, final vote to rezone 4.68 acres on Webb Road to allow for the construction of storage units.

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