Modernizing the Augusta Civic Center, above, is one of the City Council’s main priorities for the year. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — City councilors recently voted to set their goals for the year, with the intertwined goals of economic development and modernizing the Augusta Civic Center topping the list.

The council’s goals for the coming year, approved June 6 unanimously and without comment, also include maintaining city streets, encouraging the development of housing and finally implementing the long-pending comprehensive plan.

Councilors met in February in a lengthy workshop session to suggest potential goals for the year, at the time speaking of the need for the city to find ways to spur economic development and thus add to the tax base.

Councilors noted that what have since become their top two goals — economic development and modernization of the Augusta Civic Center — are related. They said the city-owned auditorium and meeting facility is a key economic driver, bringing thousands of people to the city every year who then spend money staying at area hotels, eating at local restaurants and shopping at the nearby Marketplace at Augusta and other local retail businesses.

But the 50-year-old building is also in need of updating and repairs. It has a leaky roof,  its heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems are in need of updates, and its electrical system is so old that replacement parts are not available for it. It also features a dated décor reflective of its construction in 1973.

“I see the Civic Center as a major priority, because one of our big problems has always been money, and this is one of the few things bringing money into the city,” At-Large Councilor Abigail St. Valle said at the February goal-setting session.


Consultant Patrick Ibarra works earlier this year with members of the Augusta City Council as they set goals for the coming year during a session at the Augusta Civic Center. Keith Edwards/Kennebec Journal file

The city already has American Rescue Plan Act funds, received through Kennebec County, set aside to repair the Civic Center roof. A consultant’s report last year recommended more than $33 million in short-, medium- and long-term improvements to the facility.

The goals approved last week specifically cite modernizing the Civic Center as outlined in that consultant’s master plan.

The council’s goals generally give city staff direction as they plan for the year, and give an indication of what councilors see as priorities when it comes to funding in the annual budget. However this year the budget was approved last month, before the goals document was finalized.

The effort to finally get an updated comprehensive plan in place also made the top-five list of councilors’ goals. A committee of residents was formed in 2018 to update the comprehensive plan, a document that informs planning and development in the city. That committee’s work was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Work on the plan resumed slowly, and it is currently under review by state officials, who must sign off on the document before it can be implemented.

Encouraging the development of housing is a carryover, having been a goal of councilors in previous years as well, as a response to the ongoing housing shortage crisis.

Councilors also set street maintenance as a goal, citing the need to take better care of the city’s streets and sidewalks, many of which will need work soon.

A 2022 consultant’s report said fixing Augusta’s streets that need the most immediate attention could cost an estimated $26 million. It warned that 22% of the city’s streets had two years or less of remaining “service life” left and 74% of its streets had a remaining service life of four to 10 years.


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