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On Tuesday, July 20, the Sanford City Council met in person for the first time since the pandemic began fourteen months ago. The Council Chambers in City Hall has been newly fitted with three large video screens as part of the effort to integrate remote participation in the meetings. The public may connect via Zoom and be seen and heard on the screens. The volume on the Councilors’ microphones had to be increased a few times, but otherwise the system appeared to work very well.

The start of the meeting was delayed a little bit waiting for Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy to arrive. Councilor Luke Lanigan was absent with notice. After the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio began the meeting by thanking everyone for their patience. She reminded attendees that masks were required for anyone not vaccinated.

Mayor Mastraccio and Councilor Bob Stackpole gave brief updates on last week’s Subcommittee meetings. In addition to the items we wrote about last week, Councilor Stackpole reported that the Solid Waste Subcommittee heard details of a new program from EcoMaine, the company that processes Sanford’s recycling. As part of an educational effort to reduce costly contamination in recyclables, they send company representatives to communities to visually inspect residents’ recycling, and tag containers with a green (good to go), yellow (caution, one or more items not recyclable) or red (rejected) tags. While Casella employees who actually pick up Sanford’s recycling already inspect for prohibited items, Councilor Stackpole explained that this is another step designed specifically to educate residents, with a long-term goal of being able to switch to a system with standardized recycling bins that are picked up and tipped by a automated system, as some other local communities have now. It is likely that Sanford will be accepted into the next round of the inspection program, scheduled to begin in August or September.

City Manager Steven Buck announced that nomination papers for the November 2 municipal election will be available beginning Friday, July 23. Read all the details here.

Jim Nimon, Executive Director of the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council, presented his quarterly report. See separate story.

There was no public participation.

A public hearing was held on a license application by After Glow Edibles LLC, for an adult use marijuana manufacturing facility at 9 Renaissance Way. No one spoke either in favor or against. The application was approved.

A public hearing was held on proposed changes to the City Council’s Rules and Order of Business, to align with the new state law regarding remote participation in municipal meetings. After July 30, when Maine’s pandemic State of Emergency expires, Councilors and other board members will be required to meet in person with a few exceptions: in the case of an emergency or urgent issue that requires the board itself to meet remotely, or an illness, other physical condition, or temporary absence from the jurisdiction that causes a board member significant difficulties in traveling to a meeting. If remote access is granted to an elected or appointed official, it must also be available to the general public. There were no public comments in favor or against this amendment. There was some discussion about what qualifies as a “temporary absence.” There was consensus that it would apply to a Councilor who was on a short vacation or working out of town, but not necessarily to one who wanted to winter in Florida. The Council approved it unanimously. In addition to the City Council, the new Rules apply to the School Committee, the Planning Board, the Board of Appeals and other boards created by the City Charter, or appointed by the Council.

Retiring Police Chief Tom Connolly was recognized for his 14 years of service with the Sanford Police Department, and his 41 years of law enforcement service in total. See separate story.

The City Council confirmed the appointment of Craig Andersen as Sanford’s new Police Chief, and as his first official act, Chief Andersen promoted Sergeant Chad Allen to the rank of Lieutenant. See separate story.

The Council voted to authorize the Police Department to apply for and expend $19,044 in Justice Assistance Grant funds. Chief Andersen explained that the grant funds will be used for items that the Police Department would not normally budget for. He anticipates purchasing load-bearing body armor for the remaining officers who wish to wear it (the Department requires body armor, but the load bearing body armor also takes the place of a gun belt, distributing the weight of the carried items to reduce back and hip strain). The grant will also pay for ten officers to take the FBI LEEDA leadership training course; for a company to produce a professional recruitment video for the Department; to cover some expenses for the National Night Out community event; and to purchase dress uniforms for officers to wear on occasions including ceremonies, parades and funerals.

The Council approved a couple of annual housekeeping items. One allows the City to expend any unanticipated and unbudgeted surplus or revenues. The other allows the City Manager to transfer funds from one budget account to another, with Council approval, not to exceed 2% of the city budget.

The Council voted to amend the 2021-22 School Department budget to include additional Essential Programs and Services revenue approved by the State Legislature. The additional amount is $198,124.45, which will be used to reduce property taxes.

The Council voted to assign duties to the newly created position of Communications Coordinator for the City. The duties include communications and marketing strategies, public information messaging, community relations, media relations, issues management, and social media and web presence management. Mr. Buck said he will immediately begin advertising the position, with a goal of hiring someone by October 1.

The Council voted to establish the position of Small Business Advocate within the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council. The job description is being worked out by the Growth Council board of directors.

The setup of the Council Chambers, showing the new video monitors and socially distanced seating.

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