February 26, 2013

Mayor tells Waterville Rotary that new economic development boss is a priority

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE — Waterville’s mayor said Monday that one of her goals this year is to convince councilors to fund an economic development director.

Speaking to the Waterville Rotary Club, Mayor Karen Heck said she supports the work of Central Maine Growth Council, Waterville Main Street, FirstPark, Waterville Development Corp. and other entities that work on economic development, but she thinks the city needs a director to work with those agencies and work on marketing the city.

“I hope I can convince enough people on the council that we need an economic development director now,” she said.

Heck, a former Rotary Club president, spoke to a packed lunch room at the Alfond Youth Center.

Nicole Desjardins, director for sales at Hampton Inn, said local and state budgets are tight budgets. She asked Heck how the city would fund an economic development director who might be paid $100,000 or better.

Heck said such a position, which would not necessarily draw a $100,000 salary, is an investment in the city.

“I think that if we think it’s an important enough thing, then we’ll find a way to fund it,” she said.

Heck said she works to ensure taxes are collected fairly and municipalities should not have to fund items for which the state is responsible.

Property taxes, she said, should not be footing the bill for those things.

Heck reiterated her stance that she does not believe a proposal by Gov. Paul LePage to temporarily suspend revenue sharing to municipalities will happen. LePage is a former Waterville mayor.

Matt Clark, an attorney, asked how such a revenue cut would affect the city.

“I hope not at all because I hope it’s not going to pass,” Heck said.

She said a revenue suspension would cost the city about $1.7 million.

Meanwhile, she cited a long list of amenities that city residents can be proud of, including Quarry Road Recreation Area, Colby Museum of Art and a renovated Opera House.

The city has a new homeless shelter, several new businesses, the Maine Film Center and Maine International Film Festival, she said.

A new police station is being built, a Connecticut businessman plans to renovate the former Levine’s clothing store downtown, the city and residents are working to update the city’s comprehensive plan, and the city’s airport has seen great improvements, she said. A career center in the public library helps people find employment, and the city’s website has space for businesses and nonprofit organizations to describe what they offer, free of charge.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

click image to enlarge

Waterville Mayor Karen Heck speaks to the Waterville Rotary Club on Monday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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