Emily Ruger began as Bath’s new director of community and economic development on Jan. 24. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Bath’s new director of community and economic development says more and better housing should be a priority for the city.

“There’s a huge need for housing in Maine, especially in coastal communities, and Bath is getting hit hard,” Emily Ruger said. “Bath has an old housing stock and people may not be living in the housing that fits them.”

Ruger said the need for more housing directly impacts the area’s workforce shortage.

“For example, Bath Iron Works is looking to expand, but if they can’t find people because there’s no housing locally, they can’t do that,” said Ruger.

Ruger said Bath took a big step that could improve Bath’s housing stock last week. City councilors gave preliminary approval to a new rule allowing residents to create an additional living unit on their property.

Bath has 2,640 single-family or two-family residences that would qualify to add a living unit under the new rule, said Bath Housing Director Debora Keller. If just 5% of those eligible homes took advantage of the allowance, it would add 132 new housing units in the city.


City Manager Marc Meyers said the redevelopment of 31 Centre St. is another project the city is paying close attention to.

The planning board approved a developer’s plan to turn 31 Centre St. into a mix of office space and four residential units. The plans also include adding a gym and performance space in the basement.

“We’re thrilled to see a space that has been dormant for almost 10 years have the position to be active and provide some additional residential units downtown,” said Meyers.

Aside from projects aimed at adding housing, Meyers and Ruger said the redevelopment of the former Morse High School could breathe new life into the area.

Meyers said the city is exploring whether a portion of the former high school could become the city’s new fire station. Bath’s firefighters have outgrown their existing fire station, which abuts the former high school. Constructed in 1958, the fire station also has cracks in the masonry, water damage from the roof leaking and an aging heating system. The department’s ladder truck also had to be modified to fit into the small garage.

Ruger, who grew up in Camden, was hired as director of community and economic development in January. Ruger said she’ll help the city manage upcoming development projects, some of which could add housing to the area, work with local businesses, and apply for grants and other funding opportunities.


“We’re expecting Emily to help address housing and workforce development issues in the community,” said Meyers. “Also, being able to help our business community respond to post-pandemic issues. We’re seeing instances where businesses are wondering how to take the next step in what they’re offering and looking for opportunities to either grow or stabilize as we move forward.”

Meyers said the city has had the position for “the better part of 20 years” and he last held it beginning in 2015. Meyers maintained the job’s responsibilities when former City Manager Peter Owen promoted Meyers to assistant city manager in 2018.

When Meyers became city manager last year, he said hiring someone to fill the role again was on his list of priorities. “There are a lot of moving parts in the city in terms of development opportunities and city projects.”

“I feel like this is a necessary refresh on how the city is looking at and addressing issues and opportunities in the community,” said Meyers. “I think it’s going to be beneficial to Bath to have someone taking the lead on that.”

The hardest part of Ruger’s job, Meyers said, will be balancing the need for more housing while maintaining the elements people love about Bath.

“We’re excited and we want to encourage development in the city, but we also want to maintain the balance of the expectations in the community and what’s the right way to grow,” said Meyers. “I see this position working with the planning office and city committees to help those conversations in the coming years. Change is always a challenge.”

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