BATH – Heading into 2009, the City of Ships faces a challenge common to communities across Maine and the rest of the country, City Manager Bill Giroux said last week: the economy.
“Fortunately, fuel prices have moderated, and it makes it a little easier,” he said. “But unemployment is high. When unemployment’s high, a lot of people are struggling.”
Bath has a relatively small staff for a city its size, Giroux said: “It would be difficult to trim more. But you never know until we get into the budget itself, in a few months, how that will go.”
Giroux said he also expects Bath to start feeling the impact of the 2011 closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station, which already has personnel moving out.
Among the city’s accomplishments in 2008, Giroux said, was the approval and financing of phase two of the Wing Farm Park project.
“(In 2009) we want to build that out, and get lots up for sale,” he said.
In the meantime, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection permitting process is still taking place. The City Council granted final approval in March to an ordinance allowing the city to borrow up to $2 million to acquire the land for the 26-acre business park expansion and to fund the necessary infrastructure to prepare the site for new businesses.
The 20-year bond is being funded not by taxpayers, but through revenues from the Wing Farm/Bath Iron Works tax increment financing district, which the council approved in February. BIW’s portion comes from part of the shipyard’s new Ultra Hall facility.
The city also built a new waste containment cell at the landfill, along with installing a gas mitigation system to eradicate odors drifting from the site. Giroux said the city has not had any odor complaints with the system up and running.
The waterfront park at the south end of the city benefited this year from a trail, a rebuilt pier and new bocce courts, Giroux noted, offering the community another source of recreation.
But the accomplishment Giroux said he is most proud of is the Planning Board’s approval in November of a downtown hotel. Developer Peter Anastos will build the four-story, 94-room Hampton Inn & Suites on the Prawer Block, between Front, Commercial and Summer streets.
Giroux said construction should begin early next summer.
“It’s something the city’s wanted to do for decades,” he said. “Over the next many decades there’ll be people staying right in the downtown and taking advantage of the businesses that we have here.”