The Sanford City Council met Tuesday, October 5, 2021 via Zoom. All Councilors were present. Councilor Luke Lanigan led the Pledge of Allegiance and asked for a moment of silence. The minutes of the previous meetings were approved.
Mayor’s Report & Subcommittee Reports
Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio had no report. There had been no Subcommittee meetings since the previous Council meeting.
City Manager’s Report
Hiring Update: City Manager Steve Buck gave an update on hiring. He said the City is working on adjusting pay scales to be competitive regionally, as wages have increased dramatically over the past five years. He said it has been determined that it is often less expensive to hire experienced people, rather than incur the cost of training inexperienced ones. He commended the staff in the Human Resources department for handling all the extra workload recently.
- The Police Department has hired a new officer from the Rochester PD. He is currently completing the Maine Criminal Justice Academy required online training to obtain a waiver for his “green pin” certification, which is expected to happen next week. The waiver will allow him to work full-time with SPD on limited types of calls. He will then begin training in-house in Sanford, while preparing to take his “blue pin” certification test, which, if he passes, will allow him to skip the full 18-week MCJA training. This is an example of how hiring an experienced officer saves the City money over a inexperienced one, as the full MCJA training costs $30,000.
- Due to retirements as well as to the addition of two new positions, the City has made offers to the eight candidates who scored the highest on the firefighter’s exam. Mr. Buck noted that this will lead to a significant change in the average age of our firefighters.
- Three new equipment operators have been hired for the Public Works Department, and other interviews are pending.
- Two dispatchers have been hired away from other agencies, and two more candidates are in the process pending the results of their aptitude tests.
- The final two candidates for the new positions of Communications Coordinator are being interviewed, and a decision will be made this week.
- The Assistant Planner position is being re-advertised after raising the salary by $5,000. No applications had been received at the previous salary.
- 13 applications have been received for the position of Parks and Recreation Director. They will be scored and interviewed by the end of the month.
Mr. Buck will be bringing forth amendments to some of the City’s collective bargaining agreements at the next Council meeting.
Joint Land Use Study: Mr. Buck talked about some of the issues involving the large number of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard employees that commute from Sanford each day. They are encouraged to use the available vanpools, but many prefer to drive their own vehicles in case they need to leave work early for some reason. York County Community Action has been approached about offering a flexible vanpool that would provide this transportation. The proposed park and ride behind Cumberland Farms has had an initial design done, which would include either 84 or 96 parking spaces in phase one, and space for two bus stops. The design has been submitted to Maine DOT. It will come before the City Council if the funding for it is acquired. He will have more information in November.
Mineral Extraction Task Force: He reported the task force is progressing very well across a number of complex areas with strong consensus, and is well on its way to completing the necessary work to craft a new Mineral Extraction ordinance.
Covid Update: Mr. Buck went over the latest Covid statistics and information from York County Emergency Management, Maine CDC and Southern Maine Health Care. He noted that the positivity rate is dropping in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and Maine’s numbers are usually two weeks behind those states. He said the hospitals are still heavily stressed, as there is a shortage of staff at the rehab and nursing facilities to which patients would be discharged. According to the latest info from SMHC, 30% of those hospitalized with Covid are breakthrough cases, but the severity of those cases is “dramatically less” than among unvaccinated patients. He said in Maine there is “a huge swath” of unvaccinated people in their 20s who are hospitalized with Covid. He added that the number of vaccinated people in the state topping the one million mark would positively impact the reporting of Maine’s community transmission rate.
Communications / Presentations
Bike Fest: Lee Burnett of Cycle Sanford regretfully informed the Council that Bike Fest will be cancelled for this year. He took the blame for the failure to set a rain date initially. The weather forecast for the original date led to a postponement, but the new date didn’t work for some of the key participants, so it was decided to wait until next year. He thanked all the people who worked hard to organize the event, and said that next year will be bigger and better. He said Sanford’s bike trails are not only a spectacular new way to see the City, but they also offer a glimpse of what Sanford is becoming. “Little by little, we are building a bike/pedestrian infrastructure that is becoming the envy of other towns,” he said, adding that while lots of other towns have trails, we are building a transportation network to get around the community.
Public Participation: Chris Heywood, who takes the bus to attend a day program at Lifeworks, asked if the Council has discussed installing bus shelters. Mayor Mastraccio responded that the Council is working on the issue.
A public hearing was held for a liquor license for Cruisin Infusions, a new business located at the Midtown Mall. Co-owner Katlyn Waterhouse said the company provides catering and a mobile bar service. No liquor will be served on the premises. No one spoke in opposition, and the license was granted.
Lung Cancer Awareness: Mayor Mastraccio read a proclamation declaring November to be Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
Utility Tractor: The Council approved the purchase of a John Deere 4052R utility tractor with backhoe attachment for the Parks and Recreation Department. Parks Director Brian Desrochers told the Council the new machine would replace a 970 model that the Department has outgrown. The new tractor will have greater horsepower and maneuverability, create less fatigue for the operators, and allow the use of larger implements. He said it would also allow the Parks and Rec staff to assist the Trails Committee with some of their projects, as well as providing backup for cemetery maintenance. The current tractor will be sold on Municibid once the new one is received. The purchase does not have to go out to bid due to a contract the state has with John Deere, under which the City gets a sizable discount on purchases.
Pesky Woodpecker: The Council approved the replacement of a wooden lighting pole at Goodall Park, which Mr. Desrochers said has been seriously weakened by a pileated woodpecker that has made two large nesting cavities in it. The pole is on the third base side over the batting cage area. He said he does not sleep well at night during baseball season, thinking it might snap and endanger the players. The pole will be replaced with a metal one at a cost of $44,197. The light fixtures will be reused with new ballasts. He hopes to get the work done this fall. Councilor Lanigan asked if converting the light fixtures to LED had been considered, but Mr. Desrochers said as they are only used two months of the year, it was not cost effective. The funding was appropriated through the Capital Improvements Plan, and any cost overruns will be covered by the Goodall Park Trust Fund.
Unlicensed Junkyard: The Council voted unanimously to authorize legal action against the owner of 8 York St. Community Development Director Ian Houseal showed photos of the property, which depicted junk cars, boats and a Winnebago in various states of dismantlement, as well as tires, car parts and other junk scattered across the back and side yards. The property is zoned Single Family Residential, and is not zoned for a business of this type. The City has issued numerous notices of violation over the past two years, to no effect. “We will do our best to continue to resolve the issue, but at this point, we have exhausted our ability to resolve it without a higher authority,” he said.
Retirement Plan: The Council voted to adopt provisions of a new state law that will allow City employees who previously declined to join the Maine Public Employees Retirement System another chance to do so. Those employees with more than five years of service will have one opportunity to change their minds and join the plan, while employees with up to five years of service will have an annual open enrollment period during which they can join. There will be no affect on the budget as the City budgets for all employees to join the plan. Mr. Buck said very few do not join.
Oakdale Cemetery: Councilor Lanigan was appointed as the Council representative to the Oakdale Cemetery Board of Directors.
CGA Cleanup: The Council voted to approve the terms and conditions of a $300,000 package from the Maine Departments of Environmental Protection and Economic & Community Development’s Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund, which includes a $200,000 grant and a $100,000 loan. The funds will allow the City to complete the cleanup of the CGA site at 229 New Dam Road, on the site of a former circuit board scrap yard. The circuit board hazardous waste has already been cleaned up, but there is a large amount of other waste remaining. The loan will be paid back at 1% interest over ten years, but may be paid back earlier with no penalty. Mayor Mastraccio said “This is the best deal we are going to get.” Mr. Buck said that once the planned solar facility is constructed on the site, the City will derive land lease revenue from the site, as well as personal property taxes on the solar equipment. He praised Planning Director Beth Della Valle for her years of work on the project.
Meeting Dates: The Council voted to move the dates of both November meetings, as the first scheduled meeting would have conflicted with Election Day. The new dates are November 9 and 23.
Time of Adjournment: The Council voted 6-1 to change its time of adjournment from 9:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., as there have been a few recent meetings where discussion was rushed at the end and time ran out for Councilor Comments. Councilor Jonathan Martell voted in opposition, suggesting that the Council put a time limit on presentations to get through the meeting by 9:00. He said after three hours it is tough to stay focused. Councilor Lanigan said he preferred to have no time limit at all. “I don’t want to rush people because we are watching the clock. This is the people’s forum,” he said, but added that if there is a limit, important items should be scheduled early in the agenda. The current rules require a unanimous vote to go past the set adjournment time. Mayor Mastraccio said changing that to a supermajority might be considered at a future meeting.
Comments and Future Agenda Items
Councilor Ayn Hanselmann talked about the Friends of Downtown’s Selfies with Scarecrows event (see this story).
Councilor John Tuttle announced the Veterans Day ceremony will be held November 11 at 11:00 a.m. at Memorial Gym.
Councilor Lanigan asked if the Council could be updated on the zoning discussion around adult-use retail marijuana sales, as well as the discussion on outdoor trash receptacles at takeout restaurants. He also questioned if the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council has any provision that the Board of Directors be made up of Sanford residents.
Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy asked if there are any plans for a Holly Daze event this year. Mayor Mastraccio said it would be discussed by the Property Subcommittee. Ms. Herlihy also announced details for Thursday’s Candidates Night.
The full City Council meeting video may be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84taZxiOejs.