The Sanford City Council met Tuesday, October 4, 2022. Councilor Ayn Hanselmann was absent with notice, all others were present.
The minutes of the September 20 meeting were approved.
Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio announced a workshop on road construction October 25 at 6:00 p.m. It is open to the public and residents are encouraged to bring questions. She also promoted the Friends of Downtown’s Dessert First event on October 20 at Veterans Memorial Gym. This free and fun community event will include guided conversations and activities to elicit feedback from residents on what they love most about Sanford, what future they want for it, and how to best achieve it. Bring the whole family, there will be free crafting activities for the kids.
City Manager’s Report
Comcast: City Manager Steve Buck provided an update on Comcast’s construction of their cable TV network in the City. A company spokesman said they have passed the 50% mark on the project, and have installed 73 miles of cable, serving over 5,600 residential and commercial properties. If Comcast has not come to your street yet, expect to see a mailing 6-8 weeks prior to construction, then again the week of construction. A mass marketing campaign is expected to begin in the near future. The new public access channels will be channel 22 and 95, and they will be available on the basic subscription package beginning in November.
Housing: Mr. Buck reported on LD 2003, state legislation which seeks to increase housing opportunities in Maine by studying zoning and land use restrictions. Municipalities must be compliant by June of 2023, and rulemaking continues. Some of the standards set forth are already being met here in Sanford. He said the City will be working to make any needed amendments to the zoning ordinances by the deadline.
Website: He reported the City’s new website would be online October 5. [It is! Check it out: sanfordmaine.org.] The Council will have a demonstration at its October 18 meeting. Residents can sign up for email and text notifications. A biweekly newsletter is also in the works. Updates will continue to be made to maximize search engine results.
Absentee Voting: Absentee ballots for the November 8 election are expected from the printer October 6, and will be mailed the following day. An absentee ballot may still be requested until November 3 by calling the City Clerk’s office at 207-324-9125, through this link on the website, or by visiting the Clerk’s office in person.
Communications / Presentations
Sewer District Rate Increase: Sanford Sewerage District (SSD) Supervisor André Brousseau told the Council that the SSD is facing a revenue shortfall due to LD 1911, the state legislation that prohibits any beneficial use of wastewater products containing PFAS compounds, also known as “forever chemicals.” SSD has been composting the wastewater residuals and selling the finished compost for several years, but is now putting it into their secured sludge landfill. As a result, the landfill is nearing capacity and will be closed in the next few years. He is looking into alternatives, but the closest licensed landfill is over 100 miles away, which will mean high transportation costs as well as tipping fees. Another alternative is drying the residuals, which contain about 80% water, but he expects that will also be expensive. He anticipates the increase to be about 10%, but won’t know for certain until he gets a final contract on disposal. He will formally present the rate increase to the SSD Board of Trustees next week, then will have a public hearing on October 27.
- Chris Heywood appeared by Zoom to let the Council know the crosswalk lights between Domino’s Pizza and the Central Fire Station do not appear to be working.
- Crystal Martell said she was hiking on the trails yesterday, and noticed that someone doing some clearing work had put debris in the trail, making it less accessible. (She didn’t say which trail.) Mayor Mastraccio encouraged her to call the Parks and Rec Department and leave them a message.
Adult Use Cannabis: A public hearing was held on the license application by Pine Tree Maine 2 LLC for an adult-use marijuana retail store at 22 Smada Dr. No one spoke in favor or against. The license was approved without comment under the consent agenda.
Bond Question and Charter Amendments: A public hearing was held on the bond question and proposed charter amendments which will be on the ballot November 8. Mr. Buck gave a synopsis of each one, and explained what exactly a yes vote or a no vote would mean for the City. The sample ballot with the full text of the bond question and proposed charter amendments can be found on the City’s website here. The only member of the public who spoke at the hearing was Jonathan Mapes, who was on the Charter Commission ten years ago and supports all the changes being proposed now. He said the Budget Committee has never had any authority, so the current system is redundant. “Eliminating the Budget Review Committee doesn’t change anything, the outcome is the same,” he said. He added that he suspects many of the “past, current and future” City Councilors don’t understand the budget and don’t know what they’re voting for. “I would ask voters to pay attention, and vote for folks who have a sense of finance and common sense,” he concluded.
Old Business: none
Lung Cancer Awareness: Mayor Mastraccio read a proclamation in support of Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November. She noted that there are more deaths from lung cancer than from colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. Maine has the 6th highest rate of new lung cancer cases in the country. Only 12% of high-risk Mainers are being screened for the disease. The Council approved the resolution unanimously.
Criminal Forfeiture: Police Chief Craig Andersen appeared before the Council with a communication from the state Attorney General’s Office. The case of State of Maine vs. Brian Cabral is currently being litigated, which could potentially bring $10,175 in criminal forfeiture funds to the City of Sanford. Chief Andersen thinks there is a good chance of getting the funds. The Council voted to accept the money, if it is ordered forfeited by the court.
Employee Compensation Study: Mr. Buck explained the purpose of the proposed classification study and wage and benefit market analysis for the City’s approximately 40 non-union employees. While union contracts require this type of research, the information related to non-union employees is very out of date. The City sought bids from firms to do the study and analysis, and Mr. Buck said the firm of Municipal Resources was not only the best qualified but also had the lowest bid at $17,500, which is well under the $25,000 that was budgeted. The Council voted to accept the proposal.
Health Insurance: The Council voted to authorize Mr. Buck to sign a contract with Group Dynamic, Inc. to administer the Health Reimbursement Arrangements and Flexible Spending Accounts for City employees, effective January 1, 2023. Mr. Buck said the company that currently administers these insurance programs has “failed us significantly.” A solution was researched by the Human Resources Department, which identified Group Dynamic as the best solution going forward.
Pavement Management Conditions Update: The Council voted to accept a bid proposal from the Beta Group of Manchester, NH, to update the City’s 2016/17 Pavement Management Conditions Inventory through field inspection, analysis and cost projections. Public Works Director Matt Hill said he solicited three bids for the work. Beta Group, which did the 2016 inventory, was the middle bidder at $56,300. Of the other bidders, Mr. Hill said the lowest bidder would only provide a snapshot of the conditions, not a dynamic system. He called the highest bidder “the cat’s meow” but said that going with Beta would provide a consistent approach, and allow the City to compare “apples to apples.” They provide a web-based deliverable that is user-friendly. The results of the survey will be presented to the Council and accepted at a public meeting.
Dangerous Buildings: The Council voted to declare five properties Dangerous Buildings under state law. See separate story.
Councilor Michael Termath said last Friday’s Homecoming football game was wonderful and asked the Council to bring forward a proclamation honoring Chace Fromwiller, who is battling an aggressive form of cancer.
Councilor Jonathan Martell said that Maine Access Points, a harm reduction organization which distributes clean syringes and Narcan kits in Sanford twice a week, is also providing “crack pipes” which he doesn’t agree with. He said he also heard there was an issue at a recent Airport Advisory Committee meeting that involved a violation of the Council’s Code of Conduct by the Mayor.
Councilor Bob Stackpole thanked everyone who contacted him over the death of his brother, who died suddenly of a heart attack last week. “If you are a smoker, my advice is to stop now, not tomorrow morning or next week,” he said.
Mayor Mastraccio said if any Councilor feels the Code of Conduct has been broken, they are welcome to bring that in front of the Council as an agenda item. She said the meeting in question was not on Zoom which was against Council procedures.
Future Agenda Items
Councilor Termath said he would like the Airport Advisory Committee incident to be looked into for transparency purposes.
Councilor Martell suggested that in light of the recent change to the Maine state Constitution regarding food sovereignty, the chicken ordinance be revisited.