WATERVILLE — To prepare the city for the possible effects of climate change, including extreme weather and flooding, Waterville officials held a workshop Tuesday to discuss the city’s strengths and weaknesses, and what need be done.

The state published a climate action plan two years ago called “Maine Won’t Wait” that included a comprehensive set of priorities, according to Robyn Stanicki, community resilience coordinator for Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, which is working with the city. Assistant City Manager Bill Post is heading up the effort.

The workshop was one of the steps in the city’s process to join the state’s Community Resilience Partnership program created by the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.

Benefits to joining the partnership include access to funding opportunities, help with project development and grant writing, trainings, peer-to-peer learning events and access to a regional coordinator who assists with developing project ideas and helps research and apply for project grants.

The city is identifying ways to reduce carbon emissions and transition to clean energy. It has completed a community resilience self-evaluation to identify what must be addressed and plans to take specific action to mitigate effects of climate change.

The City Council voted 5-0 on Sept. 5 to adopt a resolution to partner with the state on the effort. As a partner, Waterville can apply for  grants to pursue ways to lower energy expenses, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase community resilience.

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Waterville, for instance, can apply for a $50,000 grant to launch a project, and if it is completed appropriately, the city can apply for more grants. Cities and towns also can work together on initiatives and get $25,000 more in grant money as an incentive. If, for instance, Waterville and Winslow apply together, they could receive $125,000, according to Stanicki.

Climate resilience, she said, has a broad definition and can include actions such as instituting broadband and holding public engagement events. Post said he and city staff members over the past two weeks have worked together to identify the city’s strengths and weaknesses, and found the city has done a good job planning for hazard mitigation within the community.

The city, he said, has identified where flooding is likely, and how and where to open cooling shelters during periods of extreme heat. Emergency services are in good shape if, for instance, 18 inches of snow were to fall, or when there is an ice storm or flooding, according to Post.

The city, however, is not as prepared for “double events,” such as back-to-back ice storms or a heat wave accompanied by a power outage, according to Post.

One of the changes the city has made that is not on the list of goals was converting City Hall burners from oil to natural gas, Post said.

Waterville’s goals include using electric school buses and vehicles for the city fleet, and installing electric vehicle chargers at public parking areas and municipal office locations for city use.

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“We have some in the city,” Post said, “but we certainly could use some more.”

The city also plans to have a remote work policy for certain municipal staff members, analyze lighting systems, install energy efficient lights at city buildings and install solar panels on city buildings.

About 30 people attended Tuesday’s workshop at The Elm at 21 College Ave. They suggested a variety of ideas, including trying to curb the idling of vehicles at traffic lights; making sidewalks more user-friendly for people to walk to work, schools and shopping areas; eliminating wood smoke; getting more people to seal windows to keep out cold air; and, most important, getting more youth involved in the process.

“They’re going to be inheriting this world,” resident Emanuel Pariser said.

City Council Chairwoman Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, suggested buying electric buses and using them on weekends for public transportation, and increasing the number of households that take part in food waste programs.

“Let’s make Waterville a food waste leader,” she said.

Educating the public about climate resiliency is important, resident Kate Rice said. Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, said he would head up a climate resiliency committee. Those interested in being a member should email Stanicki at [email protected], including a note explaining why they are interested.

“I want to have a diverse and nimble group of people,” Klepach said.

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