WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday approved a housing rental registration ordinance, authorized the acting city manager to submit a grant application for a housing project along Front Street and decided to buy a used ambulance.

The rental registration ordinance will make it easier for the city to contact landlords in an emergency because they will be asked to voluntarily register their properties with the city and provide emergency contact and other information, according to officials.

The council took a first vote March 7 to approve the ordinance. But councilors later decided 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 have said.

The council voted 5-1 on Tuesday to approve the ordinance, with Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, the lone dissenter, saying it has no penalties or mandates.

“It doesn’t have any teeth to it,” Francke said. “It doesn’t order you to do anything.”

Council Chairwoman Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, was absent from the meeting. Ash Hebert, who has advocated for tenants at previous meetings, asked that the council come up with a plan that protects tenants who are subject to retaliation if they report violations.


Daniel Bernier, a lawyer representing the Central Maine Apartment Owner’s Association, which worked with the city on the ordinance, said Maine law protects tenants from retaliation.

The council also voted 6-0 to authorize acting City Manager Bill Post to apply for a $200,000 federal grant for developer Todd Alexander, who plans to demolish buildings at the corner of Temple and Front streets and remediate asbestos and soils there to create housing.

Alexander said at a public hearing before the vote that the total cost for demolition and remediation is at least $700,000. Remediation would include removing contaminated soils from former gas stations and an auto dealership that were on the site, and taking it to an off-site licensed facility. Asbestos under vinyl tile in the buildings also would have to be removed by a licensed asbestos abatement company, he said.

He said his plans include building a structure on Temple Street with commercial and retail on the first floor and three upper floors with 18 units that are all workforce housing and funded by the Maine State Housing Authority.

Another building on Temple Street would have commercial and retail on the first floor, with 45 apartments on four upper floors that would be all conventional market rate, he said. His plans call for 90 parking spaces near the buildings.

Councilors and residents discussed the plans for more than an hour, with some residents arguing for more affordable housing in the mix because many people are having a hard time paying rent and feeding their families.


Alexander said people with whom he has spoken have expressed a need for the “missing middle” or workforce housing in that area of the city. He and Mayor Jay Coelho said other housing projects in various stages of development will provide different levels of needed housing.

Asked what the rental cost for a unit in his building would be, Alexander said he thought a one-bedroom would be about $1,100 a month.

“I know a lot of people that can’t afford that,” resident Brenda Whitney said. “That’s what their rent went up to and they’re struggling to feed their kids.”

Alexander said he has dedicated himself since 2003 to building affordable housing all around the country. He said he thinks it important to have various projects targeted to different income levels.

Alexander is vice president and partner at Portland-based Renewal Housing Associates LLC, which focuses on affordable, mixed-income and workforce housing. He is developing the project with Northland Enterprises Inc., a real estate development and management company also based in Portland.

The housing would be built on land now occupied by Universal Bread, Damon’s Beverage & Redemption, the former Bob-In tavern and Creative Sounds, and a former office building known as the Heath House at 60 Front St. that abuts Appleton Street to the north.


The council also voted 5-1 to authorize Post to buy a used ambulance for $52,000 from Autotronics of Bangor. The city ordered a new ambulance last April for $338,936, which was expected to be delivered in February, but is now delayed to September, according to fire Chief Shawn Esler.

The city has used a loaner ambulance since last July for emergencies and to transfer people between facilities. Because of the delay in getting a new ambulance, the city opened a bid process for leasing one and Autotronics was the sole bidder, providing an option for a lease and buyout, according to Esler.

Francke opposed the purchase, saying it is premature to buy the ambulance now, during budget season. The city, he said, should continue to lease it.

“What I don’t understand is the need to purchase a vehicle if the lease is working and we have a brand new ambulance that is going to be delivered in September,” Francke said.

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