Waterville council plans to join economic development body

WATERVILLE — City Council on Tuesday plans to consider joining the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments after quitting its membership many years ago.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at The Elm at 21 College Ave., and the public can watch or participate virtually via a link on the city’s website, www.waterville-me.gov. An executive session to consult with legal counsel will be held at 6:45 a.m., prior to the meeting.

As part of the order councilors are to consider regarding KVCOG, the city manager would be allowed to spend up to $6,821 to pay city dues through June 30 of this year. Annual membership is $13,643. The council must take two votes to approve membership but can only take one vote on Tuesday.

KVCOG works on local and regional economic development and planning efforts and strives to support and expand local government capacity in the Kennebec Valley region.

It also works to help communities adapt to the development of solar farms, the emergence of the cannabis industry and other initiatives, has a joint purchasing program, organizes household hazardous waste days and provides land planning services. KVCOG has developed a new loan program to fuel economic development with new business finance and to create and save over 250 jobs in the region. It also works to address climate change issues and provide reliable internet services.

Ole Amundsen, executive director of KVCOG, addressed the council on January 4 and answered questions about the organization. Amundsen said KVCOG has 50 municipalities in Somerset and Kennebec counties, as well as several towns in Waldo County. In response to a question from Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, Amundsen said he doesn’t know the exact date Waterville left KVCOG, but it’s been at least a decade.

Councilor Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, said officials were pleased with the services provided by KVCOG as a facilitator at the recent Waterville Housing Conference held at The Elm. She asked what initiatives KVCOG was working on with member municipalities.

Amundsen said KVCOG regularly organizes grant opportunities for economic development efforts and develops a comprehensive economic development plan for the entire region every five years; he’s working on one now. According to Amundsen, having member municipalities helps KVCOG leverage matching federal funds.

“The more matches we are able to put on, the more we are able to attract in this area,” he said.

KVCOG, which has seven employees and is located in Fairfield, is working on comprehensive master plans for Jackman and Readfield; it is also working with municipalities on the challenge of a shortage of code enforcement officers, he said.

KVCOG has been busy over the past year, helping communities during the pandemic and providing crucial loans to start-up businesses, according to Amundsen, who said the organization is also working on a wide range of transportation planning projects. .

In other areas on Tuesday, councilors are due to consider a final vote to create a new mixed-use zone to allow commercial uses and specified apartments in a strip along the west side of College Avenue; accept a gift of Friends of Quarry Road cable tow equipment and accessories; establish a historic preservation committee; and amend the lease agreement between the city and Waterville Opera House Improvement Association.

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