Wednesday, March 12, 2014
By Paul Koenig email@example.com
GARDINER — Gardiner city councilors Wednesday night will hear a presentation from the new head of a regional business park, consider raising fees charged to member communities to use the library and consider amending a city ordinance to allow camping on public property during special events.
The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in City Hall.
Discussion on an aggressive tax rebate policy targeting significant infrastructure improvements to downtown buildings is being delayed until the next meeting in two weeks to give legal counsel time to examine the language, City Manager Scott Morelli said.
The Council heard the proposed policy to give tax incentives for hotels, the installation of elevators and upper-floor renovations last week and was expected to discuss the issue further Wednesday.
Brad Jackson, executive director of FirstPark, said he’ll be thanking Gardiner, as one of the regional business park’s 24 member communities, for its support and give councilors an update about the direction of the park.
FirstPark opened in Oakland more than a decade ago with the goal of attracting 3,000 jobs in 20 years. It has yet to live up to that goal — with about 1,000 employees at businesses in the park, mostly at a T-Mobile call center — but its supporters have said it’s too early to measure its success in that way.
Jackson, who started at his position in March, said the park is taking a more aggressive approach to attract tenants. Instead of relying on print advertising, he said the park reached out to 300 firms that had expressed interest in expanding in Maine. Of seven he met with, Jackson is “very positive” about five establishing some link within the next year or two.
Wednesday’s presentation in Gardiner is part of Jackson’s effort to meet with all 24 communities to “give them trust and comfort that we’re doing the right things,” he said.
He said he’s met with 13 so far and plans to meet with all by sometime in February.
FirstPark has its critics. Earlier this year, Gardiner’s representative to the park’s governing body, Director of Economic and Community Development Nate Rudy, raised concern over the organization’s $933,706 budget.
Rudy said he didn’t feel a flat budget reflected the financial hardships facing municipalities. “I feel the same way today,” he said on Monday.
The member communities pay nearly $600,000 to Kennebec Regional Development Authority, the entity governing the park, and receives a smaller portion back in revenues. Gardiner is planning to pay about $33,000 to the organization and receive back $13,000, according to Rudy.
Also Wednesday, city councilors will be asked by Anne Davis, director of Gardiner Public Library, to approve a 3 percent increase in the fees charged to the four other member communities for their residents to use the library’s services.
The amount each community pays is based on a formula that uses the number of items checked out by residents, but the library froze the fee for the last two years, Davis said. The proposed totals vary from $17,000 for Randolph to $31,000 for West Gardiner. Litchfield and Pittston are also member communities.
If approved by the City Council, the total revenue from the communities will only increase by about $1,000, totaling about 24 percent of the library’s $375,000 budget. Gardiner pays the remainder.
Member communities still must vote on the amounts allocated to the library at their annual town meetings next year.
The council will also consider whether to amend an ordinance regarding camping on public property for a statewide bicycle event requesting to use Gardiner’s Waterfront Park for an overnight site.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s BikeMaine is a week-long bicycle ride planned for next September.
Morelli said next year’s event could bring up to 350 cyclists and around 40 staffers to Gardiner if the city amends its ordinance to allow overnight camping on public property during special events.
Councilors will be asked Wednesday only if they support changing the ordinance, Morelli said. The city would still have to go through the ordinance process, including holding public hearings, to actually change it.Paul Koenig — 207-621-5663 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @paul_koenig