AUGUSTA — City councilors have approved borrowing more than $5.2 million for capital improvement projects, including a new fire truck and ambulance, repairs to the city parking garage that would allow it to reopen its now-closed upper deck, repairs and paving to city streets and pedestrian safety projects.

While $750,000 of the borrowing only needed the approval of city councilors, which their 6-0 vote Thursday affirmed, the remaining, $4.5 million worth of projects proposed for this year will have to be approved by voters in a March 22 referendum.

Projects proposed for this year include major repairs to the city parking garage off Dickman Street, just above downtown Water Street. The repairs would allow the upper deck of the garage, which has been closed for a couple of years due to deterioration, to reopen.

The proposed bond for the parking garage would provide $750,000 for the project, which Development Director Matt Nazar said would be supplemented with $100,000 already set aside for the work.

A proposed new fire truck, at a projected cost of $625,000, would replace Engine 4, which Fire Chief Dave Groder said is a 1994 model. The Fire Department also plans to purchase a new, $310,000 ambulance because the city is now on pace to replace an ambulance every year.

Ward 1 City Councilor Linda Conti sought to assure residents while the city may be borrowing a large amount of money, the items and projects it will fund are necessary and city finances will remain in good shape even with the borrowing.


“I want to say to everybody who hates to borrow money, because I hate to borrow money too, that this is an investment in the city and we have a great credit rating, so don’t be afraid,” Conti said before the 6-0 vote in favor of the bond proposal. “This is not something we lightly undertake, and we need to do this.”

The spending proposals did not go before voters last November because the plan was not approved in time for the bonds to be on the ballot.

Earlier this month councilors agreed to schedule a special election, March 22, to seek approval of the bond funds in time for the money to be used for the planned projects.

The projects for this year are part of the city’s five-year, $28.7 million capital improvement plan. Over its five years, the plan includes more than $2 million in work on sidewalks, crosswalks and other projects related to pedestrian safety, including extending sidewalks on Civic Center Drive and crosswalk improvements on Water Street. The plan also includes $35,000 this year and $135,000 in fiscal 2023 to engineer a proposed new sidewalk on a section of Cony Road, in the area where three people, including a 1-year-old girl, were killed in May while walking along the roadside where there is no sidewalk.

Another $200,000 of the proposed bonds of this year would go to replacing the Dr. Melendy Tennis Courts, six courts near Buker Center that are the city’s only remaining outdoor courts, part of $600,000 expected to be dedicated to the court repairs over three years.

A former tennis court at Calumet Park is now dedicated to pickleball, and former courts near the Capital Area Technical Center, which were no longer in use, have been removed.

The remaining courts, which have cracks, including some with weeds and wildflowers growing through them, are in such poor shape Cony High School has not been able to host tennis tournaments.

The city charter allows councilors to borrow up to $750,000 a year without seeking voter approval, but borrowing beyond that requires a referendum vote.

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