BELFAST, Maine — Some city councilors want their municipal departments to go on a diet. An energy diet.
At Tuesday night’s regular meeting, as preliminary talks began about the next city budget, the specter of future heat and fuel cost increases lit a fire under several of those present.
“I want to have department heads to really look at their buildings, look at their heating bills. … We need to really have some grasp of what that stuff is costing us, and what it’s going to cost us, going forward,” said Councilor Michael Hurley.
City Manager Joseph Slocum appeared to think that made sense.
“I do think this is the kind of thing you need to update on a regular basis, because the world changes,” he said.
According to Councilor Roger Lee, Belfast’s Energy and Climate Committee should be more involved, along with the municipal department heads, in lessening municipal energy costs.
“They should think about what it costs to heat their building, just like they would at home,” he said.
Councilors also gave the go-ahead to advertise for a new economic development director. According to the job description, that full-time city employee will report to the city manager and be responsible for “proactively” directing and pursuing economic development initiatives for Belfast, promote the Belfast Business Parks, act as a city economic development strategist, and provide “problem solving,” professional economic advice, among many other duties.
The councilors approved the job description and moving forward with the hiring process. They also voted to appoint a hiring committee that includes Slocum, city planner Wayne Marshall, Hurley and possibly another town or city manager with experience working with an economic development team.
Councilors also appropriated up to $100,000 for the position.
“This is a person who’s going out and elevating business opportunity,” Slocum said.
In other business, councilors heard recommendations from the hiking, biking and pedestrian committee that included improving Main Street so that it better connects for walkers and bicyclists to Renys Plaza, improving sidewalk infrastructure along Route 52, continuing the Route 1 Eastside sidewalk to the Big Apple Store, and repairing sidewalks simultaneously with street improvement projects.
“What primarily drives our discussions is safety,” said committee member Marti Packer. “It isn’t safe to walk or bike along Route 3. … The faster traffic is moving, the more you need sidewalks and bike lanes in this place. There is really a crying need for sidewalks in a lot of places.”
Councilors said they generally agreed with the committee’s recommendations.
“We are probably at the point of asking how we’re going to get this plan done,” Lee said.
Additionally, the council approved a request from the YMCA to conduct a triathlon in Belfast on May 15.