By Zendelle Bouchard
The Sanford City Council met November 8, 2023. All members were present.
Mayor Becky Brink began the meeting by dedicating the moment of silence to the people of Lewiston. Brink thanked the Sanford Police Department for the team of officers who were sent to Lewiston to help following the recent mass shooting, and for other members of the SPD who stepped in to fill the gap while they were gone. She read a letter of support she sent to the Mayor of Lewiston on behalf of the Council. She concluded her report with a list of holiday survival tips which included planning ahead for special events and making a budget for holiday spending.
City Manager’s Report
Lewiston Assistance: City Manager Steve Buck reported on assistance provided to Lewiston. The Southern Maine Special Response Team (SRT), which is headquartered in Sanford, responded at 8 pm on Oct. 25 and was there for 12 hours. The SRT was dispatched to the area again on the 27th. At the time of the shootings, Detective Erik Rae was in Lewiston for training with the FBI and became active as part of the response. Officer Eric Bilodeau was also in the area while off duty. He reported immediately and was assigned to Central Maine Medical Center to provide security. The SPD’s Peer Support Team, which includes Det. Everett Allen, Ofc. Adam Watson and Mental Health First Responder Shannon Bentley, provided support to law enforcement personnel and community members for counseling.
Yellow Flag Law: Buck explained the process for invoking the state’s Yellow Flag Law, under which officers can apply for a court order to temporarily seize firearms from a person who is identified through a mental health evaluation to be a danger to themselves or others. He said Sanford has utilized this process and is second only to the Maine State Police in the number of times it has been invoked by an agency in the state.
Hydrant Vandalism: Buck reported on a recent vandalism incident in which at least three people opened up several fire hydrants in the City. About 200,000 gallons of water was lost before the Sanford Water District and Public Works Department could respond. There were witnesses to the incident but they did not get a plate number. The SPD is still investigating. Keith Levasseur, Engineer with the Water District, wrote to thank the City for the timely response.
Boards and Committees: Buck announced the annual appeal for residents to join City boards and committees. (Look for a story with the full list of openings next week.)
Election Results: Buck read the results of the November 7 municipal election. See our story for all the details. He explained that it is not a conflict of interest for City Councilor Nate Hitchcock to also hold a seat on the Sanford Sewerage District Board of Trustees because the Sewerage District is independent and separate from municipal government.
Homelessness Update: Buck presented an update on both the asylum-seeking families that have come to Sanford this year, and the resident homeless population which has increased significantly over the past two years due to economic and other factors. Sanford currently has 141 people documented living outdoors. A York County homelessness forum will take place at the Sanford Performing Arts Center on Dec. 11. The communities of Old Orchard Beach, Kennebunk, Kittery, Eliot and Biddeford have already confirmed they will be sending representatives. York County Commissioners will be invited to attend.
Communications / Presentations
Law Enforcement Task Forces: See separate story. Mayor Brink reminded residents that OPTIONS Clinician Lacey Bailey is available to do Narcan and substance use disorder presentations to local organizations. A free Narcan kit is available to all participants. Contact the SPD to arrange a presentation.
Growth Council Update: See separate story.
Springvale resident Dianne Connolly asked if the Public Safety Subcommittee or the full Council could have a general discussion about the safety of residents with regard to hunting. She said in her neighborhood, hunters are violating Sanford’s no-shooting zone which is ¾ of a mile from Main Street, shooting after dark and too close to houses. She said the ordinance is not being enforced and it is putting people in danger.
Water District Trustee Roland Cote spoke to ask if something could be done about the overgrown and “filthy” roundabout in South Sanford before winter. Mayor Brink responded that there is a plan in place to address it.
Cannabis: Two public hearings were held on new license applications for cannabis-related businesses. Grove Cannabis Co. applied for a Tier 1 Manufacturing license at 72 Emery St., Unit 106; and Elixir Extracts LLC applied for a Medical Cannabis Grower/Cultivator license at 72 Emery St., Unit 175. No one spoke in favor or against the applications.
Voting Place Consolidation: See separate story.
Boiler House: A public hearing was held on the taking of the International Woolen Mill boiler house by eminent domain. See our previous story for more details. Community Development Director Ian Houseal provided some background. Dianne Connolly asked if there is a plan to deal with rats when the building is taken down, referring to the problem of rats fleeing the Stenton Trust mill building when it burned in 2017. She also said residents within 250’ of the property should be notified. Under separate agenda items, the Council voted unanimously to condemn and take the property, and to authorize applying for cleanup and assessment grants from the US Environmental Protection Agency. Buck said this process has been ongoing for a decade, and “the planets finally aligned” to make sufficient funding available to accomplish the City’s goals of abating the blight and creating more parking in the mill district.
Habitat Homes: A public hearing was held on a Community Development Block Grant of $100,000 which the City will use to assist Habitat for Humanity with the building of two new homes at 5 and 7 Allen St. in Springvale. Houseal outlined the City’s role in the process, which is to pass the funds through and provide administrative assistance. Amy Nucci, Executive Director of Habitat in York County, said her organization has been building affordable homes since 1985, originally one per year, then two per year for the past ten years, and now is working to increase to four per year by 2026. The homes on Allen Street are projected to be completed in spring and summer of next year. One will be sold to a current Sanford resident, while the other will be purchased by a former Sanford resident who is looking forward to returning.
Consent Agenda: The two cannabis licenses were granted, as well as licenses for games of chance and bingo at the Sanford Elks Lodge.
Holly Daze: The Council approved road closures for the annual Holly Daze parade. See separate story.
Financial Reports: Ronni Champlin, the City’s Finance Director, presented the quarterly financial report for the first quarter of fiscal year 2023/2024, which ended Sept. 30. She said total revenues collected exceeded expectations by 17%, while total expenses were 3% under budget. She said the budget has proven to be an accurate reflection of the City’s total costs of delivering services to its residents.
However, the news wasn’t all rosy. At the end of the first quarter, 25% of the annual budget should be expended, but Champlin noted that some line items were way over that target, including overtime for the Police and Fire Departments. The greatest overage is in the General Assistance non-contract services line item, which ended the quarter at 75% of its annual budget. Buck explained that the budget had already been adopted before the first asylum seekers arrived in Sanford in May, so the City was unprepared for the expense. He noted that two of the asylum-seeking families have already gotten work permits, and more are expected to do so in the coming months, which will start to reduce general assistance payments. The Council voted to accept the financial report.
Small Business Saturday: Deputy Mayor Herlihy read a proclamation naming November 25, 2023 as Small Business Saturday in Sanford. The proclamation notes that 68 cents of every dollar spent at a small business in the U.S. stays in the local community, and every dollar spent at small businesses creates an additional 48 cents in local business activity as a result of employees and companies purchasing local goods and services.
Patriots Lane: The Council voted to accept Patriots Lane as a City roadway. Buck explained that a deed to transfer ownership of the road to the City was prepared in 2007 but not recorded until 2012. The Council never formally accepted it although the City has been maintaining the road since 2012. He said this would conclude the matter, but added that the City should consider creating a tax increment financing (TIF) district around the new housing units that are being built on Patriots Lane, to help pay for needed improvements such as sidewalks and drainage.
Wormwood Park: The Council voted to send notices and schedule a hearing on a proposal to vacate portions of unbuilt and unaccepted roadways in a subdivision known as Wormwood Park. The sections that are proposed to be vacated include the extension of Coolidge Street between Harding and Putnam; and small sections of what were planned to be Myrtle Street and Granite Street, which were never built. The hearing will be held during the December 19 Council meeting. The landowner who is requesting the vacation is charged $3,500 for the City’s time.
- Councilor Tranchemontagne expressed his condolences to the family of David Erickson, who passed away unexpectedly this week. He also gave a shoutout to Lily Doiron, a little girl whose mother said she watches all the City Council meetings, and offered to give them a tour of City Hall.
- Deputy Mayor Herlihy encouraged everyone to attend the Veterans Day ceremonies on Saturday, November 11 at Memorial Gym. See the details here. She also encouraged residents to donate to organizations that are providing Thanksgiving food baskets to local families in need.
- Councilor Ayn Hanselmann congratulated the election winners, and plugged the Small Businesses, Small Plates event being put on by the Growth Council and Friends of the Downtown.
- Councilor Martell thanked everyone who came out to vote and said he looks forward to working with the other Councilors for another term.
Future Agenda Items
Hanselmann asked if the January meeting schedule might be changed to the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, since there are five weeks and the first Tuesday is on Jan. 2. She also asked that the Property Subcommittee look at the rules regarding use of the parks by organizations. She said the Sanford Farmers’ Market felt they didn’t have full enjoyment of the park this past summer.