Nicole Bowley, Interim Director of the Goodall Library (pictured lower left at the podium) showed photos from the library renovation. Photo: City of Sanford video.
By Zendelle Bouchard
Prior to the moment of silence, Mayor Becky Brink mentioned the passing of David Joy, formerly of Joy and Hamilton Architects.
The minutes of the Jan. 2 meeting were approved.
There was no Mayor’s report.
See our reports on the Jan. 9 Subcommittee meetings:
- Council to Consider Ban on Sales of Flavored Tobacco Products
- Subcommittee Reports: January 2024
- Sanford Police Department Update
- Fire Department 2023 Year in Review
Deputy Mayor Herlihy said that she attended a School Committee meeting and presented the preliminary ordinance to ban flavored tobacco, reporting that Committee members were pleased with the forward momentum on the issue. She said the School Department also has a great partnership with Southern Maine Health Care on smoking/vaping cessation and prevention. Councilor Nate Hitchcock gave a brief report on the Jan. 10 Land Bank meeting. He said they are starting to discuss how to manage vacant commercial spaces.
City Manager’s Report
Park and Ride: City Manager Steve Buck provided an update on the park and ride that will be constructed off Emerson Street, behind Cumberland Farms. It will provide 80 short-term parking spaces, a bus stop pad and will have space for a future charging station for electric vehicles.
Flavored Tobacco Ban: The proposed ordinance banning flavored tobacco is being reviewed by legal counsel. Buck said he had been contacted by the National Tobacco Retail Association in reference to it.
Cable TV: Breezeline’s cable TV franchise with the City will be up for renewal soon. Buck said he has instructed legal counsel to request a formal renewal process, which would include a public hearing. There have been numerous complaints about Breezeline’s bundling requirement, as well as the inability to pay bills in person and reach customer service representatives by phone.
Community Solar: Buck reported that an amendment to state law, sponsored by Rep. David Woodsome of Waterboro and Sen. Matt Harrington, will remove the personal property tax exemption for solar installations up to 5 MW. Sanford currently has 149.7 MW of solar installations permitted, with most of those projects already developed and operating.
Communications / Presentations
Goodall Library: Interim Library Director Nicole Bowley made a presentation on the services Goodall Library provides and detailed some of last year’s statistics. In 2023, over 10,000 people visited the library and 257 new library cards were issued. 1,279 reference questions were answered and 7,200 people used the library’s computers. She provided an update on the major renovations that are underway. Demolition has been done and steel framing for the new entryway has been installed. Next steps include framing and roofing for the addition, prepping the roof in the historical part of the building for repair, and beginning work on utilities. Construction is scheduled to continue through September, with reopening planned for October of this year. The building renovations will provide additional meeting, office and study space; a dedicated teen space; outdoor reading garden; necessary building repairs; expanded space for the collection; a pickup window; expanded parking; a new circulation desk; and updated technology. She also updated the Council on the search for a new Library Director. She said it has been difficult to attract many candidates due to the renovations and the more competitive pay offered by other local libraries, but they have made an offer to a candidate who is considering the position.
Public Participation: Dianne Connolly of Springvale asked why the Sanford Fire Department’s Ladder 37 truck is frequently out of service for repairs. She asked if it was still under warranty. Buck replied that it is.
Revenue Bonds: A public hearing was held on a minor amendment to revenue bonds issued by the City last year on behalf of York County Community Action Corp. The amendment allows the bond funds to be used for YCCAC’s office space renovation. No taxpayer money is involved. YCCAC is responsible for repayment. The Council approved the amendment.
Zoning: In three separate line items, the Council approved amendments to the city ordinances which were mandated by state legislation. See our previous story on these amendments: Proposed Zoning Changes Presented to Council.
Memorial Gym Rental: By a vote of 6-1, the Council approved setting the full facility rental rate for Veterans Memorial Gym at $100 per hour for residents and $150 for nonresidents, with a 12-hour maximum charge. Organizations using the building will not be charged for cleaning costs unless they leave a mess behind. This issue has been discussed at several meetings over the past few months. Councilor Jonathan Martell was the sole vote in opposition.
Appointments: The Council voted to appoint Brian Samia to fill the unexpired term on the Water District Board of Trustees, left vacant by the recent passing of John Cochin. The term ends Dec. 31, 2024. Lauren LePage was appointed to the Sanford Housing Authority Board of Commissioners to fill an unexpired term ending Dec. 31, 2025. Rebecca Dixon was appointed to the Recreation Advisory Committee for a two-year term. Eric St. Onge was appointed to the Trails Committee for a three-year term.
York County Advocacy Priorities: Buck detailed the four priorities that developed from work done by the group of municipalities and service providers that took part in the City’s Dec. 11 forum on homelessness. The first three priorities will be the focus for advocacy for legislation and funding pending in the state legislature. State officials are forecasting a $136M surplus this fiscal year. The priorities are:
- Fully fund existing shelter capacity, including support services. York County Shelter Programs and other Maine shelters do not receive adequate funding to maintain their current levels of service. There is currently a bill before the legislature, LD2136, to provide additional support.
- Expand shelter capacity, including support services. In York County, an estimated 300 people are currently unhoused, and there are long waitlists for the currently existing shelter beds.
- Increase funding for the Emergency Housing Relief Fund. This Fund supports several strategies to provide more permanent housing, including funds for landlord incentives, warming centers and outreach services. Resources should be allocated to counties on a per capita basis.
- Use Maine Recovery Fund resources to support unhoused people experiencing substance use disorder. The state is expected to receive up to $235M over an 18-year period from national opioid lawsuit settlements. 50% of these funds will be allocated to the Maine Recovery Fund. The City is also receiving money from this Fund directly, which is being used to help support the Sanford Police Department’s Mental Health Unit.
Buck credited Carter Friend, Executive Director of York County Community Action, with leading the effort to develop these priorities. Councilor Martell said that he would like to see “more creative” funding solutions rather than having taxpayers fund these priorities. Buck responded that the funding would be coming from the surplus, not from taxation. The Council voted 6-1 to approve the priorities, with Martell being the sole vote in opposition.
Caption: Community Development Director Ian Houseal (pictured lower left at the podium) showed the City Council a conceptual plan for the new main fire station at the intersection of Main Street and Mayflower Drive. Photo: City of Sanford video.
Fire Station Construction Plans: The Council voted unanimously to preauthorize $168,000 to create architectural plans and partial schematics in advance of the referendum vote on the two new fire stations. While a conceptual design has already been done, this money would allow for the designs to be shown situated on the actual properties that the City has purchased, so that voters would have accurate visual representations of the proposed stations. Buck said the $168,000 was the “bare minimum” needed to go to referendum, but that if voters decided to delay construction, most of the work could be rolled over for the future. In addition to the plans, the funds would be used to update the cost estimate, as a lot has changed in the two years since the previous estimate was done. The funds are being proposed to come from the Capital Improvements Program in the 2024/25 budget, but Buck said use of the municipal overlay is also an option. Houseal said the research done by the Fire Station Working Group has shown that the existing stations have reached the end of their useful lives. “The question isn’t if we are going to replace them, just when,” he said.