Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Council Approves Expenditures With An Eye To The Future

The Common Council took a number of steps with significant price tags, but which have the promise of future dividends. Expenditures for parking, webcasting of city meetings, and connecting to the Mattabesset regional sewer treatment plant were approved.

The Council took two actions to increase the number of parking spaces available downtown. It approved the expenditure of $200,000 for the demolition of a building on Liberty Street, and the construction of a neighborhood parking facility. The building currently houses Automatic Machine Products, a manufacturer of automated machine parts such as brass valves, milling and drilling machine parts, hydraulic press and pressure testing parts and accessories. Part of the money will help the company relocate to the Remington Rand Building.

The Council also approved bonds for the construction of a new parking lot on King Avenue, behind Eli Cannon's, and improvements to several other parking lots downtown. Several prominent advocates for downtown businesses spoke in favor of this resolution. Jen Alexander said that the city lot behind her business, Kidcity, does not currently provide a favorable first impression of the city to the thousands of visitors who come from out of town. Quentin Phipps, Director of the Downtown Business District, said that the bond would lead to 140 new parking spaces, and reduce the number of people driving around looking for a place to park.

Webcasting of city meetings
Senior Council members eagerly embraced the move towards the broadcasting of City meetings on the web, and approved the expenditure of $20,300 to use a company called Granicus as webhost for digital meetings of the city. The equipment necessary for this will be bought with funds from the $2M in bonds that were recently approved for computer technology. The resolution states that the equipment will include iPads "needed for electronic delivery of meeting information."

Councilwoman Hope Kasper said that moving forward with electronic delivery of documents would save the city up to $18,000 per year in printing costs. Councilman Phil Pessina said that the webcasting would deliver "true transparency" to residents of the city, and Councilman Tom Serra praised the streaming technology, "I'm venturing into this future."

Even while supporting this resolution, several council members expressed their concern that the Information Technology oversight committee had not even been appointed. This committee was mandated by Council action earlier this year. Mayor Dan Drew explained that he would not be appointing this committee until after he had presented plans for consolidating and reorganizing city departments to improve efficiencies.

An advance on a sewer line
Guy Russo, Director of Water and Sewer, explained to the Council that in order to obtain Clean Water Funds from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the city needed to put some of the work out to bid in the spring. Russo said that for this to happen, initial tests and engineering work needed to commence as soon as possible. The Council approved $1.5M, which will be repaid with the Clean Water Funds if the plans to join the Mattabesset sewer treatment plant go through.

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