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The Sanford City Council met via Zoom on Tuesday, December 21, 2021. Councilor John Tuttle was absent with notice, all other Councilors were present.

Councilor Luke Lanigan led the Pledge of Allegiance and asked for a moment of silence for those in Kentucky and throughout the south affected by the recent tornados.

The minutes of the December 7 meeting were approved.

Mayor’s Report

Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio reported on the previous week’s Subcommittee meetings. The following items were discussed:

  • The deterioration of Hay Brook Bridge was discussed (see separate story).
  • WasteZero, which manufactures the orange PAYT trash bags, has been unable to make the 8-gallon (small) bags recently for a number of reasons, including shortage of help. They expect to have them available again by mid-March.
  • There was a problem with the lights on the Christmas Tree in Central Park, Parks Director Brian Desrochers said it was due to a bad breaker, which was replaced.
  • Complaints have been received about speeding on Deering Neighborhood Rd., making it unsafe for pedestrians. There is some confusion about the speed limit, which varies along the length of the road. Deputy Police Chief Eric Small will verify the actual speed limit before posting some officers to do enforcement.
  • There was a detailed report on recent Police Department activities (see separate story).

Mayor Mastraccio reported that the Mayor’s Coalition met and reviewed its work plan for 2022. The Coalition is a non-partisan group which consists of the mayors of nine of Maine’s largest communities. They advocate for state and federal policies that recognize the important role Maine cities play in providing services to its citizens, and the positive impact cities have on the economic strength of the state. Priorities for the next legislative session include municipal services funding, infrastructure, homelessness, broadband expansion and climate action.

She said the date to apply for a seat on city boards and committees had been extended to December 27.

City Manager’s Report

Property Tax Deferral Program: City Manager Steve Buck described a new program for low-income seniors being sponsored by the state using federal ARPA funds. Look for full details on this next week.

OSHA Vaccine Mandate: Mr. Buck gave an update on the federal vaccine or mask-and-test mandate that will apply to all employers of at least 100 people, which includes the City of Sanford. It was initially to take effect January 4, 2022, but that timetable was pushed back by a stay by the courts. The stay has been dissolved, and the new time frame requires employers to have a policy in effect as of January 10, with compliance of vaccination or masking/testing no later than February 9. Mr. Buck will have the latest revision of the City’s policy available at the January 4 Council meeting for a vote. However, he said the mandate has been appealed to the US Supreme Court so it is still uncertain whether or not it will actually go forward.

Communications: Mr. Buck said the City’s Communications Coordinator, Jordan Wilson, has been getting quotes for a redesign of the City’s website. He believes there are funds in reserve which will cover the cost of the redesign. He plans to schedule a workshop with her for the Council in early February.

Budget Process: Department Managers have submitted their budget requests, capital programs and revenue projections. Mr. Buck and Finance Director Ronni-Lynn Champlin will perform a zero-based budget review department by department. Their revised municipal budget will go to the City Council for input on January 18. The Budget Committee will review the budget during the month of March, with a joint public hearing (city and school) scheduled for March 17. The Budget Committee will present its recommendations April 5.

Federal Ambulance Crews: Mr. Buck reported that Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford is one of the eight Maine hospitals that will receive assistance from federal ambulance crews in transporting patients between facilities. The crews may provide support to emergency departments as well. As a board member of Southern Maine Health Care, he gets daily patient counts, but those numbers cannot be used to gauge the severity of Covid-19 in our area as patients are being transported to York County from other parts of the state where the hospitals are full. He said walk-in clinics are inundated at this time and medical providers are having a very difficult time.

Communications – none

Public Participation – none

Public Hearings – none

Consent agenda: The Council approved licenses for Bingo and Games of Chance (cribbage) for the Sanford Elks Lodge without comment.

Old Business

Parking Ordinance: see separate story.

COPS Grant: The Council voted unanimously to accept a grant of $125,000, which will fund a portion of the salary and benefits of a new police officer. The amount was expected to be received over a three-year period, but instead it will be granted as a lump sum. Police Chief Craig Andersen said the new officer will work with the Department’s Mental Health unit, which assists people in crisis and with substance abuse issues. He said the City’s share of the cost for the new officer will depend on several factors, including whether the officer is already certified or needs to be trained, and what level of health insurance (single or family) they require. But even in the most expensive scenario, the grant will cover more than a third of the total cost of salary, benefits, equipment and training for the next three years.

New Business

Audit: The Council heard a presentation from Christian A. Smith, CPA, independent auditor with Wipfli, who audits the financial statements for both the City and the Sanford School Department. Although Mr. Smith’s presentation was brief, the Council’s information packet included over 150 pages of the reports and statements. Mr. Smith said the statements had no weakness or deficiencies, and no adjustments needed to be made.

Some of the positive things he noted were that the City’s revenue categories are all “pretty strong” and that Sanford’s debt service as a percentage of the budget is low compared to other communities. He said he is able to do the audits on a timely basis, attributable to the good work being done by the City and School finance departments.

The only somewhat negative comment he had was that the School Department had gotten behind on billing at one point. School Department Business Manager Cheryl Fournier said that was due to a staffing issue which has since been addressed.

28 Thompson St.: The Council voted to accept a bid of $6,449 from Alex D. Cyr Excavation for demolition of the house at 28 Thompson St. Ian Houseal, Director of Community Development, said the property has been unoccupied since 2017. The City declared it a dangerous building in 2019, but it has been tied up in appeal since then.

Recognition of Councilor Lanigan: Mayor Mastraccio read a proclamation honoring Councilor Lanigan, who served six years on the Council, but chose not to run for reelection. The proclamation noted that he has also served as Deputy Mayor twice; on the Budget Committee twice; as Council representative to the Sanford-Springvale Chamber of Commerce and Site Plan Review Committee; on the Planning Board; several Subcommittees including the Marijuana Task Force and Land Bank Authority; and the Oakdale Cemetery Board of Trustees. He helped establish the Sanford International Film Festival and the Synergize Sanford group and has been very active with youth sports and other community activities.

Councilor Hanselmann presented him with a jacket bearing the Sanford logo.

Former Mayor Tom Cote joined the meeting and had strong words of praise for Councilor Lanigan’s hard work and the energy he put into serving Sanford. “I remember your willingness to go above and beyond to bring life and vibrancy to the community,” he said. He thanked Councilor Lanigan in particular for the many times he played a supporting role to make him and others look good. Council members added their thanks and best wishes.

Councilor Lanigan said he is proud and thankful to have been a part of all that the Council and the City have accomplished. “Sanford has become a progressive and modern city in the last eight years and is now a sought-after place to live, grow and learn,” he said. He plans to take a few months off from public life before running for a seat in the State Legislature in 2022.

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