The Sanford City Council met November 9, 2021 via Zoom. Councilors Luke Lanigan and John Tuttle were absent with notice.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Councilor Ayn Hanselmann. She asked for a moment of silence in honor of military veterans.
The minutes of the previous meetings were approved.
National Runaway Prevention Month: Mayor Mastraccio said Police Chief Craig Andersen and the rest of his Department are working to raise awareness, support and resources on the issue. They encourage all citizens to appreciate the role they can play in advocating for, and providing safe alternatives for vulnerable young people in our community.
Waban Award: Waban has been recognized as a 2021 Spirit of America Foundation tribute winner for outstanding community service. The Spirit of America Foundation is a Maine organization which recognizes volunteerism across the state. She added her congratulations to Waban, which provides services to 4,000 children and adults each year.
Councilor Tuttle: Mayor Mastracchio offered her best wishes to Councilor Tuttle, who was hospitalized at Southern Maine Medical Center, but was expected to be discharged soon. She asked that people keep him and his family in their prayers.
City Manager’s Report
Class Action Opioid Settlement: City Manager Steven Buck said the City of Sanford will receive some money from the multi-billion dollar settlement with the opioid producers and distributors who fueled the nationwide epidemic of addiction. Funds will be distributed by the state of Maine to counties and municipalities, to be used for drug abuse prevention. He is awaiting more information, but expects to request the Council accept the settlement agreement next month.
ARPA Fund Workshop: The City will be receiving $2.4 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. The administration has identified a wide array of possible uses for the funds, and a workshop for the Council has been scheduled for November 30 to discuss them and examine how they will offset future budgets.
Police Department Promotional Process: Seven of Sanford’s police officers applied for a promotion to a Sergeant’s position and were given a written test. All seven passed with high scores, which Mr. Buck called “a reflection of the commitment and future leadership within the Department.” Oral interviews were conducted with administration and separately with Chief Andersen. The best candidate will be promoted to the open Sergeant’s position, with a second selection awaiting a future vacancy.
Planning Department: Mr. Buck read an email from Robert Reinken, President of ReinCorp, to Planning Director Beth Della Valle, thanking her and the Planning Department for their dedication and encouragement on the Central Park Residences project, which will be built in the spring.
Carpentier Park: He announced the City will be awarded $154,750 from the National Parks Service to be used for the Carpentier Park upgrade (see previous story). The project includes purchase of new playground equipment, installation of a splash pad, and other improvements. The CIP matching funds have already been allocated. ARPA funds may also be used.
Sidewalk Tractor: The City has been pursuing “Lemon Law” relief regarding an MV5 sidewalk tractor that has been a constant problem for the Public Works Department. Although it has been determined that the “Lemon Law” doesn’t apply to commercial vehicles and equipment, the dealer who sold the tractor to the City has agreed to take it back and refund the City $105,000, plus purchase back all attachments and plow blades. Mr. Buck said this resolution will help maintain the positive working relationship between the City and the vendor. The money will go back into the fleet management program. New sidewalk units of a different make have already been purchased.
Growth Council Update: Gina Sawtelle of Above and Beyond Catering has been appointed as the City’s Small Business Representative to the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council. Mr. Buck called Ms. Sawtelle “an excellent example of a small business owner who is operating and expanding in Sanford,” and cited her experience in going through the Major Site Plan review process as an additional factor in her appointment to the position.
Flight or Fright: The Halloween trick or treat event at the Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport, cosponsored by Pilot’s Cove Café, Southern Maine Aviation, Pine Tree Helicopter, BDF Air and individual pilots, was a huge success which brought over 5,000 people to the Airport. “The costumes were wonderful and the spirit and positivity was incredible; it was heartwarming to see children just as excited about being near airplanes and pilots as receiving candy,” he said. About 1,500 pounds of candy was handed out, generously donated by the airport businesses and pilots. It will continue to be an annual event. See photo above.
Airport Restoration: The terminal and South Sanford Fire Station buildings have finally been repaired from damage caused by last year’s massive hail storm. The insurance settlement of $550,000 allowed for repair or replacement to roofs, siding, windows and garage doors.
2022 Committee Openings: Mr. Buck went through the list of openings on City committees for 2022. The deadline to submit applications is Friday, December 17. Descriptions of each position and a printable application can be found on the City’s website here.
Election Results: City Clerk Sue Cote presented the certified results of the November 2 election and went through the timeline of the election process, which began when the City ballots were received September 20. 211 people took advantage of in-person voting at City Hall, 601 ballots were deposited in the drop box out back, 298 were returned by mail. 238 new voter registrations were also processed during the period. She said she believes the election was a historic one, as it is probably the first time women have comprised a majority of the Town/City Council. Shawn Sullivan is researching to verify this. Ms. Cote said it is also the first time there has been a three-way race for Water District Trustee.
Some discussion about campaign signs followed. Mayor Mastraccio said there was confusion about where signs were allowed to be placed, as the state law has changed recently. She requested a simple one-page map or explanation be made available for next year’s election. A two-page summary of the current law was provided to candidates, but Deputy Mayor Herlihy said it was poorly written and too verbose, and agreed that a one-page “cheat sheet” would be a better solution. Councilor Ayn Hanselmann apologized for her own error in putting signs in the roundabout, where they used to be legal, but no longer are.
Lee Burnett of Cycle Sanford spoke to express his disappointment with the Council’s lack of discussion and action on the Rail Trail Task Force’s recommendations. He said the Rail Trail “requires more than just getting more grant money and tinkering with the composition of the Trails Committee…that is the status quo and it’s not working.” He said a compromise on the section of the trail that is most contested had support of all stakeholders, but was “torpedoed in Augusta.” He said ATV users dominate the Trail, while others use it “with varying degrees of inconvenience and hazard.” He said it is time to make the needed improvements and the Council should support a true multipurpose vision for the Rail Trail and commit to the investment required to make it happen. “Otherwise, let’s just rename it the ATV Highway and put up warning signs for everyone else,” he concluded.
Dianne Connolly spoke to request some speed enforcement on Railroad Avenue. Since the repaving, she said traffic speed has increased dramatically and three neighborhood pets have been hit by vehicles. She asked if grants could be pursued to enable the Police Department to devote some resources to the area.
Electrical Standards: Community Development Director Ian Houseal introduced proposed changes to the City’s code to bring it in line with recent amendments to the state electrical code. There was no public input either for or against. After the public hearing was closed, a first reading was held. A second reading and vote will be held at the next Council meeting.
Parking Ordinance: See separate story.
Townhouse Solar: Planning Director Beth Della Valle introduced the proposal to create a Residential Development overlay zone which would enable the Townhouse Solar project to be built on Hanson Ridge Rd. She detailed some of the background of the project and explained that the Planning Board voted 4-2 to recommend the zoning change, with one member in particular very strongly in opposition to both the overlay zone and the project itself. There were no public comments during the hearing.
After the hearing was closed, a first reading was held and the Council discussed it very briefly. Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy recused herself, as she is the owner of the property. Councilor Bob Stackpole noted that the Zoning Subcommittee recommended the zoning change unanimously. There will be a second reading on the zoning change before the Council votes on it at the November 23 meeting.
Dangerous Buildings: The Council voted unanimously to confirm the findings and orders on the three homes that were declared dangerous buildings at the October 19 meeting. See previous story. Community Development Director Ian Houseal said the owner of one of the properties, 38 Jackson St., wanted to attend that hearing but was unable to; they were told they could bring any information to this meeting instead, but he had not heard back from them.
Air Conditioning: The Council voted to accept a bid from Freedom Air Mechanical for a ductless split air conditioning system for City Hall, at a cost of $12,700.50. Facilities Director Alex Hammerle explained that the existing cooling system is aging and has no backup; when it goes down, the server room heats up to over 80 degrees which can damage the City’s computer equipment. Councilor Stackpole spoke in favor of the purchase, saying that heat is the biggest enemy of electronic devices, causing components to wear out much faster. Council members were especially pleased that the bid was being awarded to a Sanford company. The funds for the purchase are already set aside in a Capital Improvements account.
Small Business Saturday: Mayor Mastraccio read a proclamation declaring November 27 to be Small Business Saturday, and encouraged residents of our community to support small businesses and merchants on that day and throughout the year.
Financial Reports: Finance Director Ronni Lynn Champlin presented the financial report for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020-21, which ended June 30, with a brief summary of the highlights. Fiscal year 20-21 closed with revenues .2% over projections, and expenses 2.4% under target. Overall, she concluded that in relation to the budget for the year, there have been no material concerns noted for the last quarter. Staff is working on the audit with the outside auditors, and it will be presented at a December City Council meeting.
Ms. Champlin also presented the financial report for the first quarter of fiscal year 2021-22, which ended September 30. In her summary, she noted that revenues are closing at 6.6% over target, while expenses are 6.5% under projections. School expenses are not included in these numbers. She noted that, while the account for General Assistance Non-Contract Services is well over budget, that has been offset by retirements and resignations among City personnel in the Planning and Police Departments and the Sanford Regional Communications Center.
Vaccination and Testing Policy: Mr. Buck gave a detailed update on the current status of the OSHA rule mandating Covid vaccination or weekly testing for City employees. Implementation of the rule is on hold while it is being challenged in the court system. However, he has gone ahead with writing the policy and planning for implementation so that the City can be ready to meet the deadline if the stay is lifted by the courts. The policy will require that unvaccinated employees wear face coverings in the workplace, and submit to weekly Covid testing. The Council discussed it briefly before tabling any further discussion until the court case is resolved.
Councilor Comments: Councilor Hanselmann gave a shoutout to the Friends of Downtown for the successful Selfies with Sanford Scarecrows contest. She said a very diverse group of 42 businesses participated and over 100 selfies were uploaded. Councilor Stackpole congratulated everyone who put their name forward in the municipal election. Deputy Mayor Herlihy announced that the York County EMA Vaccine Clinic at the Center for Shopping continues to offer Covid vaccines and boosters for adults on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The Clinic will be opening additional hours on Friday from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for children ages 5-11 and their parents. Mayor Mastraccio congratulated Councilor Hanselmann and Councilor-elect Becky Brink on their recent victories.
Future Agenda Items: Councilor Hanselmann asked if the Economic Development Subcommittee could connect somehow with their counterparts from Biddeford to learn more about what that city has done to grow its economy. Mayor Mastraccio said she has already started that conversation.
The full City Council meeting video is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhQbpGP9INY.
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