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18 Winter St.

The Sanford City Council met via Zoom on March 1, 2022. Councilor Becky Brink was absent with notice, all others were present.

Councilor Ayn Hanselmann led the Pledge of Allegiance and asked for a moment of silence.

The minutes of the previous meetings were approved.

Mayor’s Report

Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio reviewed items that were discussed at last week’s Municipal Operations and Property Subcommittee meeting (see that story.)

Councilor Hanselmann reviewed items that were discussed at last week’s Public Safety Subcommittee meeting, including the Police Department Update (see that story). Snow removal was also discussed. Public Works Director Matt Hill explained that the City’s new sidewalk tractors are working well, but the nature of the storms this winter has made it difficult to keep sidewalks clear before the accumulation froze solid. The City is unable to find contractors to haul snow out of the downtown area, and doing it in-house requires time-consuming switching out of equipment. The Grammar St./Grammar Rd. intersection was also discussed, with the Subcommittee coming to the consensus that more speed enforcement is needed, rather than a more drastic step like road redesign.

City Manager’s Report

Comcast Buildout: City Manager Steve Buck said the buildout of Comcast’s cable TV infrastructure in the City is significantly behind schedule, due to the delay by Consolidated Communications in processing Comcast’s pole attachment applications. The majority of the applications were submitted more than nine months ago, and Mr. Buck said the delay is in violation of Public Utilities Commission rules. He said the City had a similar experience trying to get pole attachment licenses from Consolidated, and the issue was only resolved when legal counsel got involved.

Connectivity: Mr. Buck reported that he and Jim Nimon of the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council met recently with Andrew Butcher, Executive Director of the newly created Maine Connectivity Authority. Mr. Buck and Mr. Nimon lobbied for broadband construction funds to be used to address business needs for economic attraction, expansion and retention. Among the items they discussed was the need for digital literacy resources to help business owners take the greatest advantage of broadband capabilities. He said Mr. Butcher was very receptive to their ideas and committed to continuing the dialog.

Covid Update: Mr. Buck reported that Covid numbers in all categories are “very positive,” with the PCR positivity rate in the state down to 4.6 from 6.2 a week ago. Hospitalizations are down by half. He said community transmission in York County is still rated as red, or high, but that was due to old data being used. He also said York and Cumberland County data is being skewed by the fact that critically ill patients from other counties are often transferred to hospitals in the southern part of the state. City Council policies, including the timeline for getting back to in-person meetings, hinge upon getting out of the red.

Roads Posted: Mr. Buck announced that the roads have been posted with the annual spring weight restrictions which prevent damage to roads during the freeze/thaw cycle. Commercial vehicles in excess of 10,000 lbs are prohibited on posted roads until later in the spring when the road bases dry out.

City Website Redesign: He gave a brief update on the process of updating the City’s website, which should take four to six months to complete. He said the new website should include a “How Do I…” menu on the front page to help residents find needed information with as few clicks as possible.

SRCC: Mr. Buck said communications have begun on a new bargaining agreement with the Sanford Regional Communications Center employees. He expects a positive and productive process with the goal of retention and attraction of qualified dispatchers.

Budget Meetings: He announced that the first Budget Committee meeting will be Thursday, March 3 via Zoom. The first meeting will focus on the proposed municipal budget. (Look for our report on this meeting next week.) There are links on the City website for residents to view budget documents, as well as the meeting agenda and a Zoom link. He corrected some misinformation on the proposed 2022/23 budget. He previously said there were not funds in the budget for a traffic enforcement officer, but there are.

National Opioid Settlement: Mr. Buck said he has been in contact with attorneys representing Maine in the settlement. An agreement has been made on a formula for distribution of funds to municipalities. Details on the first round of funding are expected to be released by May 1, but may be sooner. He expects the City will receive enough to pay for the new social worker position for the Police Department, freeing up those ARPA funds to put toward other priorities. The state will also be appointing a panel to oversee allocation of the state’s portion of the settlement funds. He would like to nominate Deputy Police Chief Eric Small to serve on the panel, due to his experience working on the front lines of the opioid epidemic here in Sanford. Mayor Mastraccio agreed that the panel would be lucky to have DC Small on board.

Communications

There were no communications or presentations, and there was no public participation.

Public Hearings

Cannabis licenses: There were two public hearings for renewal of medical marijuana grower/cultivator licenses, for Westbrook Creek LLC, 72 Emery St., Unit 405; and for Northeast Exotics, 72 Emery St., Unit 310. No one spoke in favor or against the renewals, and they were granted without opposition under the consent agenda.

Lagooning Moratorium: A public hearing and first reading were held on a proposed 180-day extension of the moratorium on lagooning and creation of ponds caused by digging below the seasonal high water table during mineral extraction operations. The moratorium was initially enacted on September 21, 2021. Mr. Buck said the Mineral Extraction Task Force continues its productive work on a new Mineral Extraction ordinance but is not finished yet. No members of the public spoke in favor or against the extension. Mr. Buck said members of the Task Force, which includes gravel pit operators, were not opposed to the extension, and there are no open applications requesting lagooning. He said Sanford is unique in that gravel deposits here are all located on top of significant aquifers. A second reading will be held at the next Council meeting March 15.

Other New Business

Recreational Trails Program Grant: Parks and Recreation Director Brady Lloyd joined the meeting to request the Council authorize an agreement with the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry for the Recreational Trails program, which will improve pedestrian/bike trail connectivity around Sanford High School. The City has been awarded a grant of $33,000. Local matching funds of $8,000 will come from the Sanford Trails capital improvements program and the Mousam Way Land Trust, plus $1,000 worth of labor donated by SRTC students. The project will improve two spur trails, creating a 1.75 mile loop trail with gravel and paved pathways. The Council approved the agreement unanimously.

Airport Agreement: The Council approved a contract between the City of Sanford and the Eastern Slopes Airport in Fryeburg for airport management services. See this story for more details.

Temporary Land Lease: The Council approved a temporary month-to-month land lease at the Airport for Pike Industries to use as a laydown area for its construction materials while the company is working on reconstruction of Routes 109 and 202. Airport Manager Allison Navia said the laydown area was previously created for the solar project, and has a separate gate so it will not impact aviation operations. She said leasing the area to Pike will bring in a little revenue, and will also benefit the City by saving travel time for Pike, which should help to keep the downtown reconstruction projects on schedule.

Summer Camp Fee Structure: The Council unanimously approved a new fee structure for the Parks and Recreation Department’s summer camps. In recent years the fee has been $450 for residents for the seven-week camp, which breaks down to $1.33 per child per hour, but did not include field trips which were paid separately. Mr. Lloyd explained that the new fee of $600 for residents will break down to $1.77 per hour, but field trips will be included. Financial assistance is available. The cost for nonresidents will increase from $675 to $800. He said the increase was needed to keep wages competitive. “We are fighting every business in town” for staff, he said. By including field trips, it also eliminates the extra burden on staff to handle cash.

Parks and Facilities Rental Fee Structure: On a 4-1 vote, the Council approved a new rental fee structure for parks, athletic fields and recreational facilities, including the picnic pavilions at Holdsworth Park and the gazebo at Gowen Park. Mr. Lloyd emphasized that the rental fees are applied to private groups, including travel teams and family gatherings. He said costs for materials and weekend overtime pay have increased. Sanford/Springvale groups with resident participation, such as Little League, are not charged for use of the fields and facilities. Exceptions for some private organizations, such as Girl Scouts, are also made. Councilor Jonathan Martell was the lone vote in opposition to the new fees.

Resignation: The Council accepted with regret the resignation of Mo Killay from the Recreation Advisory Board.

Asbestos Removal: The Council voted to accept a bid of $15,450 from Atlantic Environmental Contractors to remove asbestos at the vacant duplex at 18 Winter St., which was declared a Dangerous Building by the Council last May. Community Development Director Ian Houseal told the Council the Land Bank Commission is hoping to preserve the building rather than demolish it.

RAISE Grant: Public Works Director Matt Hill came before the Council to ask for a resolution to recommit Sanford’s matching funds for the downtown reconstruction projects as part of the RAISE Grant Application. This is another step in the very complex process of applying for this federal infrastructure grant. The funds of $1,810,090 were already committed by the City, but under separate projects, while this combines them into one overarching agreement. The City’s share represents about 10% of the total cost of the improvements. If Sanford is approved for the grant, the federal government will foot 80% of the bill for the reconstruction of downtown, Cottage St., the Mousam Promenade around Number One Pond, and other related projects, while the state of Maine will cover the remaining 10%. Mr. Hill said he has had verbal assurance from the Maine Department of Transportation that if the RAISE grant is not approved, the projects will simply revert to the preexisting agreements. The Council voted unanimously to support the resolution. A decision on the RAISE grant application is expected by September 1.

Park and Ride: The Council approved an agreement with Maine DOT for the new Park and Ride off Emerson St. The Park and Ride will be located behind Cumberland Farms on the back part of the old Emerson School property. It will primarily be used by workers commuting to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and elsewhere. Mr. Hill said the addition of a bus shelter, built in cooperation with York County Community Action, could potentially lead to the restoration of Greyhound bus service to the community. The inclusion of electric vehicle charging stations is another possibility. The local share of the project is $42,000, with the state agreeing to pay the remaining $168,000. This project is also included in the RAISE grant application.

Councilor Hanselmann asked why Sanford has recently been able to attract so many partnership initiatives with Maine DOT. Mr. Hill responded that the $6.2 million road bond that voters approved in 2019, and the subsequent commitment to ongoing road maintenance and improvements, let the state know that Sanford is serious about its infrastructure. Mr. Buck said the work Mr. Hill has put into the downtown reconstruction planning, as well as “outside the box” improvements that the City has done, including the SanfordNet Fiber network, have also led to Sanford scoring higher on funding applications.

Hydrant Plowing Contract: The Council approved a three-year extension of the contract with JMS Construction Services for snow removal around the City’s 596 fire hydrants. The cost is going up from $30,000 per year to $36,000 per year. Mr. Buck said JMS was the sole bidder the last time the contract went out to bid, and has provided exceptionally strong service with an up-to-date fleet and the right type of equipment to do the job.

Cooling Tower: Facilities Director Alex Hammerle told the Council that a major leak occurred January 21 in the cooling tower that exhausts heat from City Hall while the air conditioning is running. After some testing it was determined that there are three leaks in the system, and their location would make them impossible to repair. He explained the two options available: replacement of the coil bundle at a cost of $58,400, or replacement of the entire tower for $106,300. The City’s insurer would pay $53,400 toward either option. He said replacing the coil bundle would add 5-7 years of useful life to the existing cooling tower, while a new tower should last 15-20 years. Council members were all in agreement that replacing the tower was the more cost effective option. The work will take 8-12 weeks to complete.

Councilor Comments: Councilor Hanselmann recommended residents follow the Sanford Schools Legacy Foundation on Facebook to learn about all the great work they are doing. She also announced the new Sanford Arts Alliance will have a kickoff meeting on March 11 at 10:00 a.m., and the Friends of Downtown is meeting every two weeks, with the next meeting scheduled for March 2.

Future Agenda Items: Councilor Hanselmann asked for an update on the Comprehensive Plan Update.

The full meeting video can be viewed here.

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