Mayor Isgro Discusses Colby-Waterville Relationship

On November 13, The Echo interviewed Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro, who took office in January of last year. Isgro discucsed issues ranging from Colby’s role in the revitalization of downtown Waterville to Mayor Isgro’s forthcoming Italian market on Main Street. Both the Mayor’s office and The Echo understand the importance of a strong relationship between Colby students and the Waterville community, and focused on the future of Waterville and Colby’s role in the revitalization of the city during the interview.

When asked about the present issues facing Waterville, Isgro emphasized the importance of a strong labor market in any community: “Over the last several decades, the economy changed from old-style manufacturing to more high tech industry.” Like many other cities in America, Isgro said, “Waterville struggled to keep up with that.”

In the case of Waterville, however, Isgro was clear to note the significance of Colby in catalyzing the effort to revitalize downtown. “without a large investor willing to leverage capital in order to attract other investment, it would be very hard to do what we are doing.” According to the Mayor, this is exactly why the college has been pivotal in the effort. Following the purchases of four buildings downtown, many other buildings have traded hands. “Private investors have followed,” the Mayor said, “and that’s where much of the growth we are talking about comes from.”

Although Colby and the greater Waterville community are committed to reinvigorating downtown, some changes are under the auspices of the county and state: certain structural characteristics of downtown are not necessarily amenable to economic growth and community interaction. The design of Main Street, for example, is an area that Isgro highlighted as one of the areas that ought to be changed. The road is currently designed to facilitate cars looking to “shoot through and get out of town,” rather than for people to park and walk about Main Street. This is a result of the width of the road relative to the width of the sidewalk, as well as the lack of enforcement of the two-hour time limit for parked cars.

According to the Mayor, the sidewalks are currently “too thin for pedestrian foot traffic,” which disincentivizes residents and visitors from walking along the street. Isgro is also looking to improve enforcement on the two-hour parking limit on Main Street, as “it is the turnover of cars and customers that is best for small businesses.” As these proposals need to be officially proposed and discussed, Mayor Isgro said that these changes will probably not go into effect until 2017.

The acquisition of buildings on the part of the administration are not the only means for Colby to interact with the community. Indeed, student interaction through programs sure as CCAK is just as, if not more, important. On this topic, Mayor Isgro was extremely complimentary to Colby students. When asked about what the college could be doing more of, Isgro prefaced his response by saying, “I frankly have no complaints. You guys have been great!” However, an area where more of an impact could be made is in the youth sports leagues where Colby students, and in particular student athletes, could help out local teams by coaching and refereeing.

On a more candid note, Isgro recognized the perceived segregation of Colby and the Waterville community. Part of it is geographic—Colby is on a secluded hill a couple miles from downtown—and part of it cultural, as Colby students come from all over the country and world. To alleviate this, he recommended that Colby students spend more time downtown, and conversely, that Waterville residents utilize more of the amenities that Colby offers to the public—free admission to sports games and the art museum, to name a few. Mayor Isgro emphasized the notions of “responsibility and shared ownership in the community” that Colby students could further demonstrate. “Having students more visual in the community goes a long way,” he said. 

Isgro is also involved in the opening of an Italian market in downtown Waterville. According to the mayor it will be called “Napoli Market,” and it will offer imported and domestic meats, cheeses, wines, and other products. The opening date is not set in stone; however, Isgro divulged that it will open in mid-to-late December. The store will open in the former home of Barrels Community Market.

At the end of the interview, Mayor Isgro wanted to speak on behalf of the Waterville community by saying “how excited [they] are in the partnership between Colby and the community” and how it is helping to revitalize downtown. “Out of all my time in Waterville, there is definitely the most positive feeling in the air,” Isgro commented. “It really feels that the many walls—whether imaginary or not—between the College community and the rest of the community are coming down, and this is going to be a pretty exciting thing we have together.”

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