January 4, 2013

Waterville mayor outlines city’s 2012 accomplishments

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE — Mayor Karen Heck cites the police station project, opera house and airport renovations and the hiring of a new Thomas College president as some of the city highlights of 2012.

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Waterville Mayor Karen Heck

Staff file photo by David Leaming

Heck told the City Council on Wednesday that the new Common Street Arts gallery, Quarry Road Recreation Area, road improvements and establishment of the city as a center for film and film education also are highlights of the past year.

“People ask me all the time how I like being mayor,” Heck said. “And I tell them that I love it and it’s fun.”

Heck said when she became mayor a year ago one of her priorities was renovation of Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport, which has the potential to generate significant revenue for the city through jet fuel sales and services.

In the past fiscal year, the airport lost $5,000 as opposed to the $139,000 it lost the previous year, she said.

“So, I think we’re going in the right direction,” she said.

Common Street Arts gallery on Common Street was developed with a $50,000 grant and has had openings, musical events, workshops, lectures and art classes.

“It’s a really fabulous addition to the city,” she said. “Our city is a cultural mecca.”

Eustis Parkway and Water and Gold streets have been improved, and the Main Street railroad crossing fixed and paved, she said.

More roads will be improved, she added.

“(Public Works Director) Mark Turner and the public works crew deserve a real round of applause for the work that’s been done there,” she said.

Heck praised Thomas College’s new president, Laurie Lachance, who also is the new chairman of the board of directors for Educare Central Maine.

“She will bring so much life to this area,” she said.

Shannon Haines, director of the Maine International Film Festival, was named executive director of the Maine Film Center late last year. Heck said Waterville has a wealth of film resources, including a new cinema studies program at Colby College, the film festival and  an award-winning independent theater, Railroad Square Cinema. All offer opportunities for young people to come to the city to work in film, she said.

Haines and Colby President William Adams worked hard to bring the resources together to establish the city as a center of film exhibition and education, according to Heck.

She said one of the first calls she made when she became mayor was to Portland Mayor-elect

Michael Brennan, to see if a mayors coalition existed that fights for local issues at the state Legislature.

I’m happy to say there are 10 mayors, now that I inserted myself,” she said. “We’ve met with commissioners, we’ve testified in front of the Legislature, we’ve done some educational press conferences and we plan to do more this year.”

The Waterville Opera House, she said, is open and beautiful. She urged those who have never been to the facility to attend a production there.

Construction is ongoing for a new police station at Colby Circle, which was the first site choice of the police station study committee, Heck said.

“It’s going to open in June or July, which is huge,” she said. “We got what is going to be best for the community.”

Heck touted Quarry Road Recreation Area as offering 12 kilometers of trails for hiking, biking, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, walking and sledding, which also gives the city an economic development boost.

In other matters Wednesday, councilors voted 5-1 to sell city-owned property at 167 Water St., with Councilor Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, the lone dissenter. The council voted 6-0 to sell city-owned property at 140 Western Ave. that formerly housed the Parks and Recreation Department.

Special amusement licenses were issued to T&B’s Outback Tavern and Waterville Grand Hotel. A secondhand dealer’s license was issued to Leah Hartigan, owner of Sparrows Consignment at 129 Main St.

The council also took a first vote to borrow $5.8 million this year for committed projects including the police station as well as parks and recreation, fire station, airport and public works equipment and facilities and road improvements.

Councilors initially were working with a $5.4 million figure, but on Wednesday added $100,000 for more airport equipment, $200,000 for the first phase of repair work on Drummond Avenue and $50,000 for Pine Grove Cemetery chapel repair, according to City Clerk Patti Dubois.

They removed $100,000 initially designated for tennis court repair, she said. The council must take two more votes on the bond amount.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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