WATERVILLE — The City Council on Monday voted to spend $450,000 in federal COVID-19 relief money to help the homeless and support a police program that helps get treatment for people addicted to opioids.

But the council delayed voting on compensating city employees for their work during the pandemic until a special committee weighs in on the proposal.

The city is to receive $1.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding. It has secured $847,000 of that so far; the rest is expected to arrive in about a year.

City officials had proposed spending $160,000 on bonuses for city employees for their work during the pandemic, but some councilors were reticent to take a first vote on the plan until it can be discussed in a committee the council appointed to explore relief fund expenditures. The council must have two rounds of voting on the request and can’t take both votes at the same meeting.

Councilor Flavia DeBrito, D-Ward 2, said she wants the special committee to discuss the matter before she feels comfortable voting. Councilor Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, agreed, saying it’s important to ensure that the bonuses are an allowable use of the funds.

But City Manager Steve Daly said no employees took time off; they “stayed in the game and kept working” during the pandemic.


“This particular use is specifically allowed under the law,” he said.

The bonus proposal failed in a 3-4 vote with DeBrito, Green, Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, and Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, voting against, and councilors Michael Morris, D-Ward 1, Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, and Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, voting in favor. The council will again consider the proposal Dec. 7, after the special committee has had a chance to meet.

Thomas, the council chairman, said he was disappointed in Monday’s vote. “These people worked very hard through the pandemic,” he said of city employees.

The council decided to amend a request to approve spending $50,000 a year for the next five years for Operation HOPE, a police department program that helps people with opioid addictions get placed in treatment centers. Councilors voted to approve $50,000 for the first year and wait for the committee to discuss the matter before considering funding it for another four. A second vote on that issue will also be taken Dec. 7.

The council voted 5-2 to give $400,000 to the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, to be used for programs that help  find accommodations for people without shelter. Morris and Foss voted against, with both saying the committee should meet to discuss it first.

Half of the $400,000 is scheduled to be used for a program for “rapid rehousing and landlord engagement to provide 20 units of housing for two years,” according to the plan.

The council on Monday also discussed finding a location for use as a warming and cooling center, and another one for a soup kitchen. Daly was directed to explore the options and seek proposals from landlords.

The Rev. Maureen Ausbrook of the First Congregational Church of Christ, who runs Starfish Village, an organization that works to stabilize families, said there is plenty of food to feed people, but there’s currently no suitable place where they can have a hot sit-down meal.

The council waived cloture and voted 7-0 to authorize Daly to apply for $500,000 in federal Environmental Protection Agency money, to be used to identify locations in the city where man-made toxins may have contaminated the soil. If sites are found to contain such materials, they will be placed on a list for possible mitigation.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.