Dr. William Frank and Mary Frances Frank were recognized at the City Council meeting on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. State Rep. Anne-Marie Mastraccio is on the left and Mayor Becky Brink is on the right. Photo: City of Sanford video.
By Zendelle Bouchard
The following actions were taken at the Sanford City Council meeting on Dec. 19. All councilors were in attendance.
Mayor Becky Brink gave a big thank you to the Rotary Club for its donation to help the City’s homeless population. Part of the funds are being used to pay for a company to remove trash from an encampment site. She said the residents of the encampment are thankful to have that service. Rotary will hold its January Thaw fundraiser at Mee-D Thai on Jan. 16, with a goal of raising $15,000 to help support Sanford’s unhoused residents. All monetary donations go through the Sanford Housing Authority.
Mayor Brink also talked about the Homelessness Summit that was held on Dec. 11. See our story for more details.
Public Safety: Councilor Ayn Hanselmann reported that the Public Safety Committee heard an update from the Sanford Regional Communications Center (also known as Dispatch) about a proposed countywide agreement to update the CAD system, which would potentially create significant savings for Sanford and the other communities that are part of SRCC. There have been some shifts in staffing at the Dispatch Center, but there is optimism they will be back up to full staffing soon. Assistant Fire Chief Rick Smith spoke about lithium battery safety. The Fire Department had a 2 percent increase in calls this year over 2022. Two new members of the Sanford Police Department were introduced. The subcommittee also heard a presentation on fingerprinting. The department is looking at ways to increase fingerprinting compliance for those who are summonsed, rather than arrested. Also, it’s hoping to modernize by getting a digital fingerprinting station. The department is looking into new parade barricades due to safety concerns. SPD officers get just under 140 hours of continuing education each year.
Zoning: Councilor Bob Stackpole reported the Zoning Subcommittee discussed the proposed changes to Accessory Dwelling Units that were presented at the Dec. 5 Council meeting. Subcommittee members were in consensus that a property with an ADU should be owner-occupied. The full council will have the opportunity to vote on this at a future meeting.
Municipal Operations and Property: Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy reported that the Property Subcommittee discussed options for putting in a kayak or canoe landing in Johnston Park, on River Street directly opposite William Oscar Emery Drive.
City Manager’s Report
Polling Consolidation: City Manager Steve Buck said Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson has met with representatives of the other school districts that send students to Sanford Regional Technical Center and discussed closing Sanford High School/SRTC for voting beginning with next year’s general election in November. The sending schools were receptive to the idea. The state of Maine is also looking into the possibility of closing all schools in the state on voting days. The city would like to consolidate its three polling places to two at SHS/SRTC and Sanford Middle School.
Hay Brook Bridge: The City of Sanford is suing the Town of Alfred over its refusal to pay its share of maintenance for the minor span over Hay Brook. The state closed the bridge in October 2022 over safety concerns. Alfred has refused to recognize Sanford as an abutter. The court granted a continuance in the case until Feb. 29, 2024.
State Funding: Buck announced Sanford is in line to get $200,000 from the state to support emergency services, including the new Community Paramedicine Program. The money will come before the council for acceptance. There are several bills proposed in the state legislature which will also support emergency services, including one to increase rates of pay for neonatal transports, and another to reimburse communities for part of the training costs of new EMTs and paramedics if they take a job with a different community within five years. Other proposed bills will help support General Assistance. Buck said he hopes the state’s Office of New Mainers will provide a separate source of funding for asylum seekers so that GA could return to being used for longer-term residents.
Solid Waste: The committee formed to negotiate a new solid waste and recycling pickup and disposal contract met earlier this month. It is seeking proposals from EcoMaine and Waste Management of Rochester as well as Casella, which currently has the contract. Buck said there will likely be significant increases in the per ton cost, as Sanford’s current favorable rates were the result of a lawsuit. He said the lack of landfill capacities in Maine is a significant challenge.
Homelessness Update: Buck said the Homelessness Task Force is focused on optimization of the Warming Center at the former Lafayette School. It is being well used for meals but underutilized for overnight stays, due to concerns by the guests about the security of their personal possessions. Options being considered include lockers and lockable crates. The second-floor resource hub has not been set up yet due to a shortage of staff. The SPD’s Mental Health Unit is managing encampments around the city and not forcing anyone to move. Showers are available at the YMCA and they are working on transportation. Buck said they are working on the type and number of staff positions needed to manage the unhoused population, which might include a public health official or peer support specialist. At last report, the MHU was aware of 155 people in Sanford known to be living outdoors or in their vehicles. The Homelessness Task Force will meet again Jan. 22.
Communications / Presentations
Audit: Christian Smith of accounting firm Wipfli gave a presentation on his company’s audit of the City and School Department’s financial statements for the 2022/23 fiscal year. He reported the financial statements are accurate and there were no material weaknesses or significant deficiencies. There were no findings with respect to the four federal grants that were tested, which were the ESSER, Title 1 funds for the School Department, and the Airport Improvement Program and Coronavirus Relief Funds on the city side. Assets exceed liabilities by $66.2 million and there is $31 million cash in the bank accounts. “Debt service burden is really low on the taxpayers here in Sanford” compared to other southern Maine cities, he said, noting that most of Sanford’s debt service is paid by the state for the school construction projects. He thanked the finance departments of both the city and the School Department for the great job they did on the financial reports. The council voted to accept the audit report.
Proclamation: Mayor Brink was joined at the podium by State Rep. Anne-Marie Mastraccio to read City and State proclamations recognizing Dr. William Frank and Mary Frances Frank on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. The Franks have been active in community service since moving to Sanford 41 years ago.
Public Participation: none.
Cannabis: Public hearings were held on a renewal of the license for the Landrace Cannabis adult use retail store at 22 Smada Drive and a new license application by Green Truck Farms for an adult use retail store at 27 Hancock Lane. No one spoke in favor or against.
Consent Agenda: Both cannabis store licenses were approved without objection under the consent agenda. A license for games of chance (cribbage) was also approved for Springvale Social Club.
Wormwood Park: A hearing was held on the vacation of certain portions of unbuilt and unaccepted roadways in a subdivision known as Wormwood Park. Community Development Director Ian Houseal explained that the proposed action would vacate the public’s claim to 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 property owner who petitioned for the vacation is being charged for the city’s costs. The council voted to approve the measure.
Airport Land Lease: The Council voted to approve a temporary land lease between the City and Northern Maine Community College for use of the southwest ramp at the Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport. Airport Manager Allison Navia explained that the ramp was leased to the college last year for the hands-on portion of their commercial driver’s license course, and they would like to use it again.
Plowing Contract: The council approved a three-year contract extension with C.A. Plante and Sons of Springvale for westside plowing services. Public Works Director Matt Hill said Plante does a good job and the city has historically not had much success attracting other bidders. The first year of the contract extension has about a 10% cost increase, with small increases in the second and third years.
Code Enforcement: The council voted to appoint Nicholas Gallant as a code enforcement officer and constable through June 30, 2024. (These positions are annual appointments.) Houseal said Gallant will start off working in the Land Bank office.
Rail Trail Policy: The Council unanimously approved a new Rail Trail Linear Park Policy after making several tweaks to the proposed language. The policy stipulates that no motorized vehicles are allowed on the Rail Trail except e-bikes and motorized wheelchairs and snowmobiles from Dec. 1 to April 1 if there is snow cover. Landowners with property on both sides of the trail may cross it on motorized vehicles with permission from the Parks and Recreation Department. Councilor Jonathan Martell objected to this provision, but Brink explained that the city needs to know who is crossing the trail in case of any damage. The Rail Trail and trailheads are open from 5:30 am to 11 pm. Smoking, consuming alcoholic beverages and partying are not permitted. Hunters may use the Rail Trail to access areas where hunting is permitted but may not shoot from or across the city’s right of way, which varies from about 50 to about 100 feet wide in different sections of the trail.
Council Member Comments: Councilors wished each other and the public a Merry Christmas.
Future Agenda Items: Hanselmann requested the Public Safety Subcommittee discuss purchasing the proposed new parade barriers over a period of time rather than all at once. Herlihy asked for a workshop on the mental health services provided to students in Sanford schools before discussion on the budget begins. Brink requested discussion on an ordinance to ban flavored vaping pods. She also noted that the Appointments Subcommittee will be meeting Dec. 28 to recommend appointments to boards and committees.