After nearly 20 years of discussions, the Westbrook Common revamp, with a higher price tag, is becoming a reality.

The City Council Monday gave preliminary approval to the $2.3 million project, which is expected to take three years to complete. Plans for the downtown plaza off Main Street and in between Mechanic and Church streets include additional street parking, more recreational space and a music stage. Most of the work will focus on utilities underground, such as upgrading stormwater drains that are upwards of 100 years old.

The council Monday also expanded eligibility for the senior property tax assistance program and gave preliminary approval to plans for the use of $2 million in federal COVID-19 relief money, including funding a mental health liaison position for the Police Department.

Work on Westbrook Common may start this construction season with more substantial work next year, Mayor Mike Foley said.

“This will be a great investment, and that area will be vibrant. With those attractions, it’ll be awesome,” City Council President Gary Rairdon said.

The project’s price tag is high, almost $1 million higher than was anticipated in November, because of construction costs that rose during the pandemic and because of the “complex work” needed on the old underground utilities and electrical supply lines, Foley said. The utility work would have been needed soon regardless, according to City Administrator Jerre Bryant, because of their age and growing needs downtown.

Sole bidder Shaw Earthworks of Gorham will do the utility work. During the meeting, Foley said there was only one bid because of how complex the work was.

The $2,275,673 project will be partially funded with $1,150,000 from the Westbrook Environmental Improvement Corporation and $300,000 from the Cornelia Warren Community Association. The city will use $395,000 from the American Recovery Act and $180,000 from the capital improvement budget for the project, along with $161,000 from the sale of Westbrook Heights space and $200,000 from the sale of 34 Spring St. to Bath Savings Bank.

The council also approved the expansion of the senior property tax break from age 68 to 65 and raised the maximum award from $500 now to $1,000. The city will use $100,000 from COVID-19 federal funds to create a reserve fund in case the budgeted amount gets exhausted, Foley said, and any leftover tax break funding from this year to go into that reserve as well.

“We heard this during our budget, that our seniors are struggling,” Councilor Claude Rwaganje said.

The city plans to use $300,000 of its $2,014,395 in federal COVID-19 relief grants to fund the civilian mental health liaison to assist police with mental health calls and an emergency medical services director position at the fire department.

Rwaganje said he was “really in support” of the addition of the mental health liaison because Police Chief Sean Lally “deserves more support in the work he’s doing.”

The city will also use $721,246 of the relief funding to restore 2 1/2 positions eliminated due to pandemic cuts (a sergeant’s position in the Police Department, an administrative support position at City Hall and a part-time position at Walker Memorial Library), as well as reimburse the Westbrook Environmental Improvement Corp. for money they gave to businesses during the pandemic.

Another $485,000 of relief funding will go to cover revenue losses from excise tax, recreation fees and ambulance fees, and $400,000 will be slotted for stormwater upgrades.

The city will use $100,000 to financially support Westbrook-based organizations that provide food and nutrition support, Bryant told the American Journal Tuesday.

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