Wednesday, March 12, 2014
By AMY CALDER
iron horse: The Old 470 steam locomotive in Waterville.
Staff file photo by David Leaming
WATERVILLE — City councilors voted 3–3 Tuesday to sell the Old 470 Steam locomotive for $25,000 to New England Steam Corp., with Mayor Karen Heck breaking the tie in favor of selling.
The council also voted 4–0–2 to appoint Planning Board member Dana Bushee Hernandez to be the new councilor representing Ward 6.
New England Steam will have two years to raise the money to buy the engine and show the city it has the funds to move it, according to the contract between the corporation and city. Once it gains title to the engine, it has another year in which to move it to the Ellsworth area, where members say they will restore it.
The original purchase-and-sale agreement councilors considered Tuesday night gave the company six months to move it after obtaining title, but Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, recommended that the timeline be expanded to a year.
He was concerned that New England Steam might not be able to raise the money in six months to move it; increasing the timeline would protect the city, he said.
The purchase-and-sale agreement stipulates that if the money is not raised, the corporation forfeits title to the engine and it becomes the city’s property. New England Steam also loses the $25,000 it will have paid for the engine.
Councilor Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, opposed the sale.
“I feel this engine belongs to the people of the city of Waterville,” he said. “It’s part of the history of this community, and we should not remove it from this community.”
Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, disagreed, saying he thinks New England Steam officials have a sincere interest in preserving the engine and do not want to scrap it.
“It deserves to be alive,” he said. “Right where it sits, it’s just dying a slow death.”
O’Donnell, Thomas and Councilor Rosemary Winslow, D-Ward 3, voted to sell the engine to New England Steam; Stubbert and councilors Zachary Bickford, D-Ward 2, and Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, voted against the sale.
Heck broke the tie in favor, saying she understands people’s historical attachment to the engine, but she thinks New England Steam members have come forward with a good proposal. And if their plan does not work, the engine stays in Waterville, she said.
New England Steam President Richard Glueck, of Winterport, thanked the council and sought to allay people’s fear that the engine will be handled improperly.
“Everything will be a slow, methodical procedure and nothing irrational will happen to the engine,” Glueck said. “Tonight, it has a fence around it, which is the safest it’s been in 60 years.”
Meanwhile, Hernandez, 39, winner of the Ward 6 seat, is a training institute manager for Hardy Girls, Healthy Women, a nonprofit organization based in Waterville. A Democrat, she sought the Ward 6 council seat a few years ago but lost to Eliza Mathias, who resigned from the seat recently, citing family and work obligations.
Councilors appointed Hernandez on Tuesday over former Ward 2 City Councilor Michael Owens and businessman Eric Poirier.
Hernandez has been on the Planning Board three years, is a founding member and treasurer of the newly-formed parent-teacher organization at George J. Mitchell School and helped draft a tobacco ordinance that was approved and prohibits smoking and tobacco possession at city parks. She also worked on the city’s comprehensive plan and said she not only wants to see the plan approved, but also implemented.
Chairman Thomas nominated Hernandez on Tuesday; Winslow seconded the motion. O’Donnell then nominated Poirier, with no one seconding his motion. Rancourt-Thomas nominated Owens, with O’Donnell seconding her motion.
Stubbert, Bickford, Winslow and Thomas voted for Hernandez; O’Donnell and Rancourt-Thomas abstained from voting on the nomination.
Hernandez took her seat at the council table after being appointed.