Board: Auburn City Council

Met: Tuesday night

Community development loans

Issue: Decreasing federal aid and higher building costs have meant tighter budgets for the city’s community development loan program. Spending on community development loans for building rehabilitation projects, energy efficiency improvements and other redevelopment projects have increased steadily from $248,000 in 2004 to $607,000 in 2008.

Community Development Administrator Reine Mynahan suggested loaning less money and tightening requirements for loans going forward.

Issue: Spot rehab loans, given for emergency repairs, would be reduced from $20,000 per applicant to $15,000. Energy rehab loans would go down from $10,000 per resident to $5,000. Commercial rehab loans would be reduced from $125,000 per business to $50,000, and loans for small low income business loans would go down from $25,000 per instance to $10,000. Down payment assistance would be set at a flat $10,000 per property.

The city would  also change the  schedule for applying for heating oil help with the city. Residents would no longer be able to apply year round, but would have to file their applications between November and March each year.

The city would also begin charging interest for energy rehab loans and lead abatement assistance.

Up next:  Councilors are scheduled to vote on the changes to the program at their Oct. 19 meeting.

City council field trip

Issue: With the closing of two school properties, the city’s Land Lab and the old Merrill Hill School, councilors are faced must decide what to to do with properties.

The scoop: City Manager Glenn Aho suggested councilors meet at the properties during their next meeting to tour sites and get more familiar with them. Councilors will meet at the land lab building at 5 p.m. Oct. 19, then proceed to the Merrill Hill building.

Councilor Dan Herrick said he didn’t need to take another look at the properties to know what to do with them. He favors selling them and putting them back on the property tax rolls.

Vietnam memorial

Issue: Both Lewiston and Auburn have plaques dedicating the Veterans Memorial Bridge to Vietnam veterans. In Lewiston, the plaque is near the northwestern on-ramp. A small road is nearby, providing places for cars to park and letting veterans visit the plaque. Auburn’s plaque is not so conveniently located. It’s on the southeastern side of Center Street north of Bowdoin Street, with no stopping place for people to pay their respects.

Local veterans groups are recommending both plaques be consolidated on the Lewiston side of the bridge where it would be easier for veterans to visit.

The scoop: Councilors said they didn’t like that idea. Councilor Mike Farrell said the point is to dedicate the bridge, and removing a plaque in either city would be a disservice.

Mayor John Jenkins recommended relocating the plaque to the west side of Center Street, which has more room for parking.

Up next: Councilors agreed, and asked Aho to recommend that change to veterans groups and the Maine Department of Transportation.

Snow clearing

Issue: The city normally bans overnight parking between Nov. 15 and April 15 between midnight and 7 a.m. That ban is designed to make it easier for the city’s snow plows to clear the roads during heavy snowstorms. It amounts to a complete ban on overnight parking for more than 150 nights each winter.

The scoop: The full ban might not be necessary. Instead of banning overnight parking all winter, they proposed letting Police Chief Phil Crowell declare snow emergencies, banning overnight parking for the duration of the storm. That would benefit downtown residents with limited parking available, requiring them to move their vehicles an estimated 25 nights each year.

Crowell and Public Works Director Bob Belz also recommended strengthening the rules stopping residents from dumping snow cleared from their driveways into plowed city streets. People caught doing it would face a warning from the city the first time they did it, a $50 fine the second time and $100 fines each time after that.

Up next:  Councilors agreed to the changes and approved them on first reading. They’ll vote on them a second time at their Oct. 19 meeting.

Next meeting: Joint meeting with the Lewiston Council on Oct. 15.

The next City Council workshop, is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.  Oct. 17, followed by a 7 p.m. meeting.

Contact government reporter Scott Taylor via phone at 689-2846 or via e-mail at [email protected]

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