The Sanford City Council met Tuesday, October 18, 2022. All members were present.
Subcommittee: Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio gave a quick summary of the previous week’s Subcommittee meetings. See this story.
Eagle Scout: She announced that an Eagle Scout Court of Honor will be held for Alden Treadwell on Sunday, October 23 at Holdsworth Park at 4:30pm. Alden, a student at Sanford High School, earned his Eagle Scout designation in July of this year. His project was organizing and building a chimney swift tower for the McKeon Reserve in Springvale. Alden has participated in scouting since first grade when he became a cub scout. He has accumulated 385 hours of scout related volunteering, 126 nights of camping and 172 miles of hiking. He is currently involved in the venturing program, and was a counselor in training this past summer at BSA Camp Hinds in Raymond. “We offer Alden our congratulations and best wishes,” she concluded.
Governor’s Visit: The Mayor mentioned Governor Janet Mills’ visit to Sanford on Monday, when she and MaineDOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note met with business leaders, toured Rubb Building Systems, and walked the downtown area impacted by the RAISE Grant and Village Partnership Initiative.
City Manager’s Report
Absentee Voting: City Manager Steven Buck announced that absentee voting is being moved from Council Chambers to the break room on floor 2R. Take the elevator to 2R, go through the doors, and it’s the first door on the right.
$1 Million Referendum: Mr. Buck provided background information and a summary of Question 1 on the November 8 ballot, which seeks voter approval for a $1 million bond to start work on cleaning up the International Woolen Mill property. He noted that the property owner, Regco, is a defunct and bankrupt corporation with no assets. Regco has not responded to the City’s legal actions and no future response is expected. “It is now up to the City to act,” he said, by foreclosing on the properties for delinquent property taxes, and partnering with the EPA and Maine Department of Environmental Protection to demolish and remediate them. The IWM properties include the Boiler House that was declared a Dangerous Building by the City Council earlier this year. The $1 million in funds will be used to leverage millions of state and federal resources for the project. Mr. Buck said the plan is for the City to take the properties by a legal avenue known as “adverse possession” which will protect the City from past environmental liability caused by the Mill. “Unless the City takes action, no one else will,” he concluded.
Two Out of Three’s Not Bad: Mr. Buck announced that GrowSmart Maine recently announced its 2022 Projects of the Year, and Sanford was recognized on two of the three awards. One award went to the Stakeholder Group of the Maine Land Bank Authority. Sanford’s Director of Community Development Ian Houseal worked with the Stakeholder Group over two legislative sessions to sponsor and pass legislation creating the state Land Bank Authority, which mirrors the one he was instrumental in creating here in Sanford. Another award recognized Sanford’s Public Works Director, Matt Hill and the City for the Mousam Promenade project that will connect Sanford’s trail system with a bike/pedestrian path around Number One Pond. View a video about the Awards here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ijOnEOM004.
Maine Trails: The September issue of Maine Trails magazine includes a comprehensive article about the City’s work on the Village Partnership Initiative with MDOT which resulted in the RAISE Grant to rebuild downtown streets. Read the full article here: https://mbtaonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Maine-Trails-Aug-Sep-2022.pdf.
Roads Workshop and Presentation: The City Council invites the public to a workshop on October 25 at 6:00 pm in the Council Chambers. The presentation will outline the City’s capital program for roads, the engineering and allocation of resources, and provide the latest update of the 5-year plan for the City’s streets. The public will be able to ask questions. The workshop will be televised on cable and live streamed, and Zoom access will also be available.
Communications / Presentations
Strategies: Reverend Sue Murphy, President of the Board of Strategies for a Stronger Sanford, gave a presentation on the organization which was created as a coalition of many organizations to share resources and information in their shared mission of supporting children, youth and families. Strategies currently supports the Friends of Downtown, the Sanford Backpack Program, Stuff the Bus, the Sanford Police Cadets and the Right Brain Club, by providing administrative assistance and office space, accounting assistance and organizational structure. Each program has an ad hoc member on the Strategies Board. Funding for the organization comes from grants, as well as donations from local citizens and businesses.
Website: Communications Coordinator Jordan Wilson gave a comprehensive tour of the City’s new website, and explained the many new features. The site is optimized for mobile devices and includes many new pages and features, in a well-designed and user-friendly format. She said an e-notification feature is still being debugged, but once it is launched, residents will be able to sign up for text and email notifications on the topics of their choice. Council members thanked her for all her work on the website and had several suggestions for additions and corrections to the site.
Ballot Questions: Ms. Wilson presented a guide to the November 8 ballot questions in plain English, with specific examples of what a “yes” or “no” vote would mean for each one. The guide is available on the City’s website here.
Heart and Soul: Mary Hastings of the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council, spoke about the Dessert First event that the Friends of Downtown is hosting on October 20 (see this story for all the details).
There was no public participation and there were no public hearings.
Dangerous Buildings: The Council voted to confirm the findings and orders for the five properties that it adjudged to be Dangerous Buildings at the October 4 meeting. Mr. Houseal provided an update on each property:
- 88 Lebanon St.: This home has a rehab plan and has had a pre-inspection. Everything is moving forward smoothly to get this property back in to the housing market, he said.
- 23 Rankin St.: A couple of property management companies have reached out, wanting to make current on the vacant building license and pay the delinquent taxes. However, the legal counsel present at the October 4 hearing indicated that the heirs of the late owner are seeking to get title. Mr. Houseal said he has concerns that the home has been vacant so long it may not be salvageable, but the City will carry out the required actions and continue with the process.
- 10 Lenox St.: “This property continues to be worrisome,” he said. The mortgagee has been nonresponsive, the owner is incarcerated, and the Police Department continues to receive complaints about trespassers. Since the hearing, the City took action to post it against trespassing, and will be fully securing it and turning off the power in the next week or so.
- 9 Grove St.: The rehab plan was issued and the pre-inspection has been done, so things are moving along.
- 8 York St.: Mr. Houseal clarified that the Dangerous Building designation can apply to a nuisance property as well as an actual structure. He also stated that the finding and order on this property did not include an order to vacate, although that language was included in the blanket finding and order that the Council approved October 4. He said the homeowner, Lucas Hilton, is occupying the home but has not responded to letters sent by the City to forestall action.
The Council voted unanimously to confirm the findings and orders on the first four properties, and 5-2 on the York St. property, with Councilors Michael Termath and Jonathan Martell the dissenting votes.
Subcommittees: The Council voted to change the date of next month’s Subcommittee meetings to November 22 to avoid having them on Election Day.
Extra Mile Day: The Council voted to adopt a proclamation declaring November 1, 2022 as “Extra Mile Day” to recognize people and organizations who are creating positive change in the community through extraordinary efforts in volunteerism and service.
St. Thomas Anniversary: The Council voted to adopt a proclamation recognizing St. Thomas School on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. Mayor Mastraccio called Principal Jessica Rice and Ericka Sanborn, the School’s Director of Marketing, Enrollment and Legacy up to the podium as she read the proclamation, and recalled the late Councilor John Tuttle’s fondness for the school.
Electricity: The Council affirmed a fixed price electricity supply contract with Maine Power Options at $0.1652/kWh for the 12-month period beginning next month. Facilities director Alex Hammerle explained that he has been closely watching the price of natural gas futures, which are linked closely with the price of electricity, to determine the point at which the City could get the best price. He said electricity prices have gone up substantially across the board, but Maine Power Options has always provided the best pricing for the service the City receives. A one-year contract was chosen due to the fluctuations in the market. The contract is for a partnership that includes the City, the School Department, the Water District, the Historical Museum and the Nasson Community Center.
When asked about producing solar for the City’s use, Mr. Buck went into a short history of the City’s attempts to get a solar project built at the Rushton St. landfill that would provide power for City-owned buildings, the School Department, Water District and Sewer District. The original project that was planned there has been sold by the original developer and has been downscaled, and it will no longer be able to provide power. However, two new proposals have been received so the plan is still very much alive and he expects the project to provide solar power for municipal and school use will soon be back on track.
Fire Department Vehicles: The Council approved allowing the Sanford Fire Department to transfer $50,000 from its Capital Improvements Program for the purchase of a new staff vehicle. The funds were originally approved to purchase a tactical support unit, so the SFD would not have to use the big fire trucks to accompany ambulance calls. Chief Steve Benotti said better use of the coding of medical calls, made possible by the addition of a second Assistant Chief to the Department, has resulted in less use of the big trucks for this purpose, and they do not anticipate needing to purchase the TSU in the near future. Instead, Chief Benotti said the SFD needs an additional staff vehicle as he and the two ACs are sharing two vehicles. Each one has to carry personalized equipment which makes sharing difficult. The new vehicle will be a lease purchase, which will be paid for in two years.
The Council also approved the three-year lease of a vehicle for firefighters to use in traveling to paramedic school. The closest school is in Lewiston, so firefighters put 7,280 miles on their own cars over the course of the program. AC Rick Smith said this will help break down the barriers to more firefighters becoming certified paramedics. The other option would be to pay mileage, but the cost to lease a 2023 Kia Forte is actually less expensive than mileage reimbursement would be. The initial eight months of payment will come from the savings in education line of this year’s budget. There is no cost to insure an additional vehicle, as the entire fleet is insured for a set price.
Roll Off Trailer: The Council voted to accept a bid for a new roll-off trailer to replace the Transfer Station’s roll-off truck. Mr. Hill presented all the options to replace the truck, which will not pass inspection due to corrosion of its double-walled frame, and said the Public Works Department has determined that replacing the truck with a trailer which could be towed by one of their existing tractors is the best option. In addition to being much less expensive than a new truck, it is one less motor to maintain. Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy expressed her concern that finding Class A drivers for the tractor is a problem. Mr. Buck said the two tractors are currently underutilized, and this change will enable the Department to get more use out of them. The new trailer is scheduled for delivery in January 2023, and the PWD will lease a trailer in the meantime.
Pilot Transportation Program: The Council approved the expenditure of $5,000 in each of the next two years for a pilot program to provide a dedicated bus route to transport workers to various employment locations in the area. MaineDOT has asked Sanford to partner with York County Community Action, Biddeford/Saco/Old Orchard Beach Transit, and the towns of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport on this pilot program. The proposed route will go from Sanford to Kennebunk and Biddeford, with several stops along the way. Currently, the only way for workers without transportation to get from Sanford to Biddeford and vice versa is on the WAVE bus, which requires making a reservation in advance. The proposal is for the bus to make four round trips per day – two in the morning and two in the evening – seven days a week. Some of the funding for the program will come from employers along the route. Mr. Buck said he will propose that stops be added at the industrial park in South Sanford.
Adjournment: As the meeting had gone over its scheduled time limit, Mayor Mastraccio abruptly adjourned the meeting so the Council could reconvene in the conference room for a continuation of its goal-setting workshop. Councilor Termath wanted to speak, but was told the meeting had already been adjourned.