June 28 – AUBURN – An initial request for $100,000 was doubled by City Council on Monday for a project that will bring a kayak rental kiosk and several modular spaces to Auburn.
Officials said the modular spaces, by Maine-based company “OpBox,” would give the city a unique economic development engine for recreational events and potential business incubators.
The council has earmarked $200,000 from the city’s allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act for the initiative, which will include several of the OpBoxes, as well as a kayak rental station that would be placed near the Androscoggin River behind Gritty’s.
Jay Brenchick, director of economic development, said the boxes are in high demand because of their range of use. He hopes the city can partner with an outdoor company like LLBean, which already has a relationship with OpBox, to have modular outdoor gear like fishing rods or cornhole sets for community events. During the winter it could be moved to accommodate ice skate rentals.
He said the goal was to have the OpBox and kayak rentals, through a company called “Rent.Fun,” put on by the Auburn Blues and Brews Festival. in September.
The officials were sold on Monday, and Brenchick said the additional funds will allow for the purchase of several smaller OpBoxes to be used at craft fairs, farmers’ markets, a Christmas village or “portable business incubators.”
According to a memo from Brenchick to the council, the city’s downtown revitalization plan calls for incorporating river activities into events and using the activities as “a way to attract business and people to our centers. -cities”.
He said both purchases tick those boxes and that OpBoxes could potentially help small start-ups grow into “brick and mortar” businesses over time.
Also on Monday, the council agreed in principle to fund $1.6 million for extensive HVAC upgrades to four city buildings, after an audit found poor ventilation and high levels of carbon dioxide. .
The audit found that carbon dioxide levels in three buildings – Hasty, Norway Savings Bank Arena and the Auburn Public Library – “far exceed acceptable standards”.
At the arena, for example, the study found that “CO2 levels in the rinks and locker rooms are extremely high” and that this “affects the physical health and mental acuity of the occupants”.
Staff had requested the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds, but officials could not agree on how the work would be funded.
While several councilors said the city should take immediate action on building issues, including the Hasty Community Center and the Norway Savings Bank Arena, Mayor Jason Levesque argued the city should tie the funds instead.
Levesque also questioned the source of the audit, which was done by a company called Building Infrastructure Management Solutions, because it was done for free.
“I have serious doubts about the authenticity of the study,” he said. “At this point, I think a second opinion is needed.”
Council eventually voted unanimously to direct the city manager to begin the bidding process on the projects, with the source of funding to be determined.