WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday approved the first of two votes needed to pass a new housing rental registration ordinance that officials say will foster dialogue and make it easier for the city to contact landlords in an emergency.

But the original proposed ordinance before councilors Tuesday was not what they ended up voting on. They voted to postpone requiring property owners to register their properties with the city or face a penalty and instead introduced new language that asks for voluntary registration. Even so, the city’s goal is to get 90% compliance on registrations, officials said.

Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, said the changes from the original to the new proposal were significant enough that councilors should consider it a new ordinance. So, they took a first vote on the new proposed ordinance and must take another one at a future meeting.

Francke voted against it, saying he was opposed to a “so-called ordinance” that carries no mandates or penalties and no schedule for building inspections.

“It didn’t go before the Housing Committee, so we don’t know what they have to say about it,” Francke said. “I am simply not going to vote for something that is not an ordinance.”

The proposal calls for the city to be given telephone numbers for property owners or managers who would respond to emergencies. Dan Bradstreet, the city’s director of code enforcement, said a lot of buildings are being purchased by large corporations or LLCs that are difficult to reach when the city needs to speak with them, including in emergencies.


Council Chairwoman Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, said city officials met with representatives of the Central Maine Apartment Owners Association to reach the compromise of asking for voluntary registration instead of making it mandatory.

Dan Bernier, an attorney who represents the Apartment Owners Association and who had long argued against mandatory registration, said that as part of the new proposal, the fire chief would report annually to the council on housing data. Bernier said the association has 800 members and is the largest and most active one in the state.

“This a good compromise — a reasonable compromise,” Bernier said of the new proposed ordinance.

People should be proud that Waterville is a city that can work together on landlord and tenant issues, he added.

“The point is that this is taking us down the road of working on these issues,” he said.

Some people said a newly formed tenants association in the city should have been involved in discussions about the ordinance. Green said that, when the council in October reviews how the ordinance is working, that association and the landlords association will be involved.


Bradstreet said his office works with the fire department to inspect buildings that have three or more units and the plan is to inspect three per week, for the next three years. They will be inspected whether or not an owner registers the property with the city, he said.

Anna Holdener, a former tenant and current homeowner, said she had talked with councilor Green at length about the newly-worded ordinance and supports it. Holdener is head of the South End Neighborhood Association, which is a group of neighbors who organize events and set goals for the betterment of that area of the city.

“Being an advocate for tenants, I would say that this is absolutely a first step,” Holdener said.

Ash Hebert, a tenant, said it is important to consider protection for tenants in all the ordinance discussions. “Let’s move forward together if we can,” she said.

Katie Spencer White, president of the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter in Waterville, said the shelter operates 11 housing units for people ages 18-24 and she sees the issue from both sides. She voiced “broad support” for the compromise proposal.

She agreed with Bernier that gathering housing data is important. “We have very limited statewide data,” she said.

Diane Weinstein, a social worker and Francke’s wife, said she was concerned about several things, including the property owners who do not register, which puts the burden on tenants to report violations. Bernier said that when he gives a speech to the landlords association in September, he will encourage members to register. He said he will tell them that if he were the code enforcement officer, he would be curious about the reasons why a landlord would not register.

In another matter Tuesday, acting police Chief William Bonney and acting City Manager Bill Post updated councilors on an effort to possibly explore the idea of having the Waterville Regional Communications Center expand its coverage area in the wake of plans by Somerset County to stop taking 911 calls for 16 communities in Kennebec County after June. Post said councilors must support exploring the idea of having a public safety answering point before officials start looking into it.

If the city does become a PSAP, it would be important that city taxpayers pay only for their services and that a rate structure is set up to ensure other communities receiving services pay their fair share, according to Post.

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