Calais City Council

By Michael R. Brown

 

On November 10th the inaugural address of newly elected mayor was characteristically brief. William (Billy) Howard III began, “All I got to say is education, infrastructure, and economic development.” Except for education, such were the themes for the full council meeting on November 17th. 

The meeting of the Economic Development Committee which took place before the regular council meeting, heard a presentation from Herm Gadway regarding a plan for a number of signs marking areas and districts downtown. The bulk of the cost will be covered by the Maine Community Foundation, and the council approved one thousand dollars to assist. The lettering will be gold on a blue background, and there will be no Calais logo on any of the signs, which will be put up in the spring. A push for “Small Business Saturday” to be held on November 26 was presented to the council.

As it was with the Economic Development Committee on the 10th, a great deal of discussion centered on the demand of the county commissioners for an additional 5.8% increase next year. In the previous year the increase was 4%, and over the last five years increases have averaged 3%.

Councilor Mingo asked, “Where in that process do we get our input?”

New Councilor Sherrard remarked, “The city is doing as much as we can to keep taxes down.”

City Manager Porter said he will talk to as many other town leaders as he can. Mayor Howard pointed to the county’s taking back operation of the jail is an obvious increase in cost.

Several councilors noted the county commissioners have not yet completed their own audit for 2015.

A quick review of the impact of the minimum wage initiative that passed in the recent election brought out several aspects for future concern. While most department heads agreed that the next year’s increase will not pose a problem, each successive year will bring greater increases.

City Manager Jim Porter noted, “We will need more frequent Budget Committee meetings.”

Buildings of concern have included several discussed at recent meetings.  A bid had been accepted for 22 Boardman, but the bidder attended the council meeting to request a refund because the cost to fix the property was going to be much greater than he anticipated. The council agreed to return the difference between the minimum asked for and the amount the bidder actually paid. Then the council agreed to open the bidding again. The council proceeded similarly by refusing a request for additional funds to fix unanticipated costs on the St. Croix fire station. The Sarsaparilla Building has been bought, but the state of disrepair, especially the roof, is of great concern.  

A request had come to the council to move the ice skating area downtown. While the counselors agreed the idea was a good one, they could not find a level area that would be workable.

In the meeting wrap up, Mayor Howard noted the unfinished nature of the surface work done on South Street. He was assured it will be finished in spring. Money to upgrade the airport is coming. The problems with the Washington County Board and the Dark Fiber project remain major issues to be dealt with.

The last council meeting for 2016 will be held on December 8th.