The Sanford City Council met July 19, 2022. All members were present.
Mayor’s Report / Subcommittee Reports
Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio gave a report on the previous weeks Municipal Operations and Property Subcommittee meeting. See this story. She congratulated the 13-15 year old Babe Ruth All Stars on winning the Maine State Championship. The team now moves on to compete in the New England Tournament in Keene, NH. She was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Mainers’ game, and learned it takes many dedicated volunteers to make those games happen. There is still time to get out and enjoy some good baseball before the end of the season. The Fire Station Feasibility Group will tour the new Brunswick Fire Station.
Councilor Ayn Hanselmann gave a report on the Public Safety Subcommittee meeting. See this story. She had this update from Detective Colleen Adams of the Sanford Police Department’s Mental Health Unit: Sanford has approximately 18-20 people who are presently living outdoors, another 20 or so living in their vehicles and another 50 with unstable housing situations. Almost all of the City’s homeless population is made up of Sanford natives or longtime residents. Det. Adams continues to offer them services and options. A formal report on the Mental Health Unit’s activities will be presented at some point.
City Manager’s Report
Sewerage District: City Manager Steve Buck reported that the Sanford Sewerage District will be raising rates next year due to mandated changes to the disposal of biosolids contaminated with “forever chemicals.” See this press release for more info.
Plow Trucks: The two plow trucks that were discussed at last week’s Property Subcommittee meeting have been ordered and will be received in time for the winter season. The vendor that is supplying them is now completely sold out.
Crosswalk Striping: Mr. Buck has been working with Public Works Director Matt Hill and Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport Manager Allison Navia on a solution to the crosswalk striping problem. The Airport does their own striping, but their equipment is aging. A possible solution would be to buy new equipment for the Airport that could also handle the City’s striping needs. Even with paying overtime to City staff to do the work, he believes the City will come out ahead and have more control over the timing of the work.
Westside Village: Sargent Corp. pulled some staff from the Westside Village project to finish construction of Taxiway C at the Airport. Once that is done, the remaining work at Westside Village, which includes retaining walls and sidewalks, will be wrapped up by the October deadline.
Park and Ride: The civil engineering firm of Gorrill Palmer is completing the design for the Park and Ride which will be constructed on Emerson St. behind Cumberland Farms. Once it is built, York County Community Action will be able to expand ridesharing and introduce a new microtransit option for workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and other large employees in southern Maine.
Safe Streets for All: Mr. Buck and Mr. Hill have been working on a new grant opportunity which is part of the federal infrastructure bill. The first step is to apply for a $200,000 planning grant. If their application is successful, the funds would be used to create an engineered analysis of all aspects of Sanford’s transportation infrastructure, including roadways, intersections, street lights, bike and pedestrian paths. The federal government is putting $1 billion per year for five years to address deficiencies that are uncovered in the planning studies.
Streetlights: The City’s LED streetlights are now under a maintenance contract, and work is being scheduled to do the necessary repairs.
TIF Updates: The TIF districts for the apartment complex at the former Nasson dormitories property and for the Central Park apartments are nearing acceptance at the state level.
Compliments to City staff: Mr. Buck read a letter from Kona Ice, one of the vendors who set up at the 4th of July festivities. The letter praised the professionalism, helpfulness and thoroughness of the City Clerk’s office, Code Enforcement Department, Parks Department and Fire Marshal. Communications and planning were “amazing” and Sanford is “by far the most organized” of the 20+ municipalities the company has worked with in Maine. The letter concluded with thanks to City staff for making this new business feel welcome.
Communications / Presentations
Growth Council Update: Keith McBride, Director of the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council didn’t have the usual update since he has been in the position for only two weeks, but instead talked about a new Economic Development Dashboard that he is creating to measure the metrics of the Growth Council’s highest priority initiatives. He said the Dashboard will be a great way to show the progress that is being made.
Communications: Jordan Wilson, the City’s Communications Coordinator, gave an update on her work over the past few months. Sanford’s Annual Report is available on the City’s website as well as in paper form at the City Clerk’s office. She has joined the Board of the Chamber of Commerce to better understand the needs of businesses in the community. She met with School District administrators last week to discuss the Communications position they hope to create. The City’s new website is in the final stage of quality assurance testing. When that is complete, training sessions will be held for staff members before the site is turned over to the City. She expects it will go live in early September. New photo and video shoots have been taking place to create fresh visuals for the site and for marketing purposes.
There was no public participation and there were no public hearings. There was no old business.
License Request: The Council approved a catering permit for Above and Beyond Catering to serve beer, wine and specialty drinks at the Classic Car Show on July 29. They will be set up in the Midtown Mall parking lot alongside the new walkway.
Informational Insert: After lengthy discussion, the Council approved a two-page informational insert which will be mailed to property owners along with tax bills. The insert will include information on this year’s City and School budgets, information on how to apply for property tax relief programs, a graph on property tax values in Sanford, upcoming election information, how to contact elected officials, and more. The tax bills go out the first week of August.
Housekeeping: The Council approved two items of “housekeeping” that come up every year. One allows the City to expend any unanticipated, unbudgeted surplus, gifts, grants, bequests, devises, or revenues from any other source. The second set the amount that the City Manager is permitted to transfer, with Council approval, from one budget account to another, at 2%. Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy noted that it had been 2% for at least the last twenty years.
Budget Update: see separate story.
Airport Grant: The Council voted to accept a grant offer from the Federal Aviation Administration in the amount of $148,500 to be used for updating the Airport’s master plan.
Road Closure: The Council voted to approve use of a few City roads for the annual Bike MS event on August 7, which raises money for multiple sclerosis. The event begins and ends in Biddeford and cuts through a small portion of the northern end of town as it winds through Alfred. Mr. Buck said the event has been happening for several years, requires no traffic control and has never caused a problem.
Holdsworth Park: The Council voted to approve the closure of Holdsworth Park to the public on six dates while the Rec Department’s summer camp is being held there. See separate story.
Maine Municipal Association: The Council voted to accept the proposed slate of officers put forward for the Maine Municipal Association’s Executive Committee. In a separate agenda item, the Council voted to cast a ballot for Sanford’s Community Development Director, Ian Houseal, to serve as a Senate District 33 representative to the MMA Legislative Policy Committee for a two-year term.
JAG Grant: The Council authorized an application for a 2022 Justice Assistance Grant in the amount of $18,297. The funds will be used to purchase two SpeedAlert Radar Message signs for the Police Department, with a total cost of $13,348. The balance of $4,949 will purchase advertising and other recruitment materials to attract qualified applicants to the Department. Deputy Police Chief Eric Small told the Council that the SPD leadership asked the rank and file officers what the funds should be used for, and these were their suggestions. This is not a competitive grant so the funds will definitely be received, but will take a few months.
Hazard Mitigation: The Council voted to adopt the 2022 York County Hazard Mitigation Plan. The plan has been reviewed and approved by the state and federal government. Sanford’s Emergency Management Director Alex Hammerle told the Council that adopting the plan allows the City to be eligible to receive mitigation funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Transfer Station Hours: The Council approved a change in the operational hours for the transfer station. It is currently open Tuesday-Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The new hours will be Tuesday-Friday from 7:30 to 3:30, and Saturday from 7:30 to noon. In the crew’s 40-hour work schedule, this leaves a half an hour each day, plus an extra hour during the week for them to do necessary cleaning and maintenance. It was not clear when these new hours will take effect.
Mineral Extraction: The Council voted to approve proposed changes to Chapters 280 and 149 of the City Ordinances, which creates a new process for licensing, inspecting and regulating mineral extraction operations in the City. The proposed changes to Chapter 280, which is the zoning part of it, will go to the Planning Board for discussion and public hearings before coming back to the Council for final approval. The proposed changes to Chapter 149, which is the licensing part, will be addressed by the Council separately.
To sum it up very briefly, mineral extraction operations, better known as gravel pits, currently require a five-year permit to operate. Problems with this system have arisen because minor errors can become major problems over a five-year time period. There has been conflict between pit operators and City staff when these issues arise, as they are very costly to fix. The proposed new system replaces the five-year permit with a licensing process, which will require yearly inspections for renewal of that license. The annual inspections would be conducted by the Code Enforcement Officer with assistance from a third party who has more specialized knowledge and better equipment (LIDAR-equipped drones) than does the City.
In a separate agenda item, the Council approved a consent agreement with Rock Bottom Sand & Gravel to allow them to extend their current five-year permit until the proposed ordinance amendments are adopted, or June 7, 2023, whichever is sooner. The agreement stipulates that Rock Bottom must address conditions in its 2017 permit by September 15 of this year. The company’s pit is located on Country Club Rd. #3.
Charter Amendments: The Council began working through the amendments to the City’s Charter which were proposed by the Charter Review Committee last month. See separate story.
Adjournment: When it was almost 9:30 p.m., and there was one Charter Review recommendation left to consider, Deputy Mayor Herlihy motioned to continue the meeting until 10:00 p.m. A unanimous vote is required to extend the meeting, but Councilor Jonathan Martell voted against the time extension so the motion failed. Mayor Mastraccio said she would ask for consideration of a change to the Rules of Procedure at the next Council meeting, to be able to continue meetings until 10:00, or to enable them to extend past 9:30 with a majority vote. “I don’t like being held hostage to one person who doesn’t want to finish our work,” she said.
(At the June 21 Council meeting, Mayor Mastraccio stated the review of the Charter Committee’s recommendations would be done “in a manageable way,” spread out over several meetings. No explanation was given for the rush to finish in one session. The Council has two meetings in August and one in September before the actual deadline.)
Council meetings used to go until 10:00 p.m., but that was changed to 9:00 last summer after it was pointed out that meetings used to start at 7:00, and now they start at 6:00. Councilor Martell said it was difficult to stay focused for that length of time, particularly as the Council usually has Executive Sessions prior to the regular meeting, beginning at 5:00. In October, the Council voted 6-1 to change the ending time to 9:30, as they were often running out of time for Councilor Comments and Future Agenda Items. Councilor Martell was the vote in opposition. If the Council votes at the next meeting to return to a 10:00 ending time, that means Councilors will be working for up to five hours without a break.
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