ST. ALBANS CITY — The St. Albans City Council Monday night approved liquor licenses for a potential new owner of a downtown landmark business – Jeff’s Maine Seafood.
The council also took action that could lead to improvements to backsides of buildings bordering the now-under-construction city parking garage. Also approved was a zoning change for 5 Spruce St., clearing the way for a possible expansion of Beverage Mart.
The other top item on the council’s agenda – restoration of the Taylor Park fountain – was discussed but not acted upon.
Acting as the liquor control board, the council granted liquor licenses to Keith Roy, of Williston, for both Jeff’s Maine Seafood, at the corner of Main and Bank streets, and the adjoining Wine Shop on Main Street.
Roy told the board he does not plan on making any changes to the restaurant and will keep Marie West as the manager.
Roy is purchasing the two businesses from owner Jamie West. Closing on the sale is scheduled for early January.
This is a career change for Roy, who said he is using his own funds to make the purchase outright. He served in the military for 32 years, reaching the rank of Chief Warrant Officer.
Roy served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was injured in a helicopter crash in Baghdad, he told the council.
The council also approved easement changes for 27 buildings along Kingman and Main Streets. The easements are for the rear of properties bordering the parking garage site.
The changes give the businesses new easements and the city gains the right to make improvements to the rear of the properties, including new curbs, sidewalks, dumpster locations, landscaping and relocation of utilities.
The rights of way for the owners of Kingman Street shifted south. “Nobody lost anything. Everybody gained something,” said city manager Dominic Cloud.
Marty Manahan, the city’s director of business development, worked with the landowners to arrange the transfers. “The majority… looked forward to this project coming on line and were more than willing to work with us,” he said.
Manahan also wanted residents to know the city is not buying property or removing it from the tax rolls. The changes were mutual exchanges of easements and rights of way.
Ross Arsenault, owner of Beverage Mart, has plans to expand his business by adding a new bottle return center to the Spruce St. location, which adjoins his property. The store’s wine selection would then be expanded and moved into the current bottle return building.
With the change in zoning for 5 Spruce St. from residential to business, Arsenault may now seek Development Review Board approval for his expansion plans.
Ward 4 Alderman Jeff Young and Ward 5 Alderman Chad Spooner voted against the zoning change, which was approved 4-2.
The council did not make any decisions regarding the Taylor Park fountain, but did ask staff to prepare the necessary documents and numbers for a bond vote. It will decide whether to approve a December bond vote on the fountain on Friday during a special afternoon session.
Council members wanted to see final numbers on the cost of a bond and what the tax implications would be before deciding whether to call a special meeting to place the issue before voters.
Robinson Iron in Alabama has offered to restore the fountain for $180,000, including the cost of dismantling it and shipping it to their workshop in Alabama.
In order to have the fountain returned in time for the St. Albans Raid anniversary next fall, the fountain would have to be dismantled and shipped for repair by the end of this year.
The other expense is the demolition and reconstruction of the pool and base of the fountain. That cost is still being determined.
The council is divided on the question of whether to bond for the fountain. Young is in favor. Ward 1 Alderman Tim Hawkins expressed doubt about the use of the public funds and not private fundraising. He was also concerned about the dynamics of a bond vote.
“It’s very easy for the public to come in and put it on the credit card,” said Hawkins. “But those votes can then limit the council’s options by tying up money,” he added.
Aaron O’Grady, Ward 3, noted that once a bond has been issued and repairs made there is less incentive for private fundraising.
Ryan Doyle, Ward 5, expressed concerns about holding a vote in the week before Christmas.
Ward 2 Alderman Jim Pelkey and Mayor Liz Gamache both said they have been receiving comments from constituents with a range of viewpoints on the fountain.
Pelkey said he is generally hearing that constituents want it repaired, but some are not in favor of paying for it with public funds while others are not.
Gamache said she is also hearing that people want the repairs done properly and not rushed.
The board also unanimously approved the purchase of a new sidewalk plow by the Public Works Department. The city had two sidewalk plows, one of which is 13-years-old, explained Public Works Director Allen Robtoy.
The $130,000 purchase would be paid for with a seven-year loan. Payments will be made with funds that are set aside annually for public works capital expenses.
Included in the purchase price are attachments that will allow the vehicle to be used for other things, including sweeping a parking garage scheduled for construction next year, according to Robtoy. “It’s a multi-use vehicle,” he said.