Growth Council Executive Director Keith McBride addresses the Council.
By Zendelle Bouchard
The Sanford City Council met August 1, 2023. All members were present.
Mayor Becky Brink read a letter from Sanford Police Department Deputy Chief Eric Small. DC Small wrote about an organized effort to clean up the City-owned parking lot on Heritage Crossing, near the intersection with High St. The cleanup took place on July 19, the day after the owners of Rand & Company at the Sanford Mill spoke to the City Council about drug use, discarded needles and trash adversely impacting their business, but had been previously planned. Several employees of the SPD, Sanford Housing Authority and the Public Works Department picked up and removed three truckloads of rubbish, cut shrubbery back to allow a clear view of the area, and placed barriers at the entrance of the parking lot to limit traffic. Small added that, since the cleanup, the SPD has increased patrols in the area. City and SHA personnel who took part in the cleanup included Peter Smith, Scott Robitaille, Raymond Davis, Thomas Blanchette, Tom Gilman, Calvert Bond, Wade Dore, John Campbell, Colleen Adams and Diane Small. “It felt like a Sanford Strong environment…City employees and partnering agencies coming together is key to our overall success,” he concluded.
City Manager’s Report
Asylum Seekers: City Manager Steve Buck reported that of the 35 families of asylum seekers that came to our community in May, 24 families are being housed in Sanford/Springvale. All of the children have had their immunizations, and school enrollment and bus coordination is underway. The Lions Club has provided eye assessments and those who need eyeglasses will be getting them. The volunteers and resource coordinators working with the families will continue to meet biweekly.
Assessing & Taxes: Buck reported the City’s new assessor, Ben Thompson, has been working diligently to identify and address deficiencies in the system. The company that was printing our tax bills closed, so a new company was found but the price has quadrupled since last year. The tax info inserts that were included with tax bills last time will be reduced to two pages and be printed in black and white. Seniors who enrolled in the Property Tax Stabilization program will not have to apply again, as that will now be done as part of your income tax filing. The Tax Fairness Credit has been increased to $2,000. To apply for this credit, file Schedule PTFC/STFC with your Maine income tax form. The credit is available to renters as well as homeowners.
Stanley Road Trailhead: The parking lot to access the trail at Stanley Road is closed temporarily, and should reopen no later than August 18. Central Maine Power is upgrading the transmission line and substation there and has installed a portable substation to avoid the necessity for power outages while work is being done.
8 York St.: Buck provided an update on the property at 8 York St., which was declared a Dangerous Building in October of last year. The City has removed a number of vehicles and RVs, and assessed a special tax to cover the cost. The special tax has not been paid and is maturing into a lien. The property is being foreclosed on by the mortgagee, and the City is in contact with them regarding the ongoing enforcement actions. The Land Bank authorized notices to claim covered property and secure the premises, and those are being served on the owner by the York County Sheriff’s Department. Once the YCSD verifies the notices were served, the City can secure the property with the help of the SPD, as there are a number of individuals living there. Once the property is secured, the exterior will be cleaned up. Buck noted there have been numerous complaints by the neighbors about this “very problematic property.”
For additional information from the City Manager’s Report, see these stories:
- Task Force Gearing Up to Help Resident Homeless
- Needle Exchange Program to Relocate
- Fiscal Year Ends with Expenses & Revenues Above Projections
- Nomination Papers Available Now for November 2023 Election
Growth Council Report
Façade Grant: Keith McBride, Executive Director of the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council, gave his quarterly report to the Council. He said the façade grant fund has been very successful, with a series of applications received and work already underway. The former 7-11 store at the corner of Main and Winter Streets has been spruced up and is ready for its new tenant, which reportedly will be a T-Mobile store. The former CarQuest Auto Parts building on River St. has received funding for exterior improvements as it is transformed into a restaurant. The building at 41 Washington St. (next to Third Alarm Diner) will use the façade grant to replace glass and put in new awnings.
Economic Market Study: The Growth Council, in cooperation with the Planning Department, is preparing a Request for Proposals to conduct a economic market study for Sanford. The goal of the study will be to get a better idea of what types of businesses are in demand here, and how much commercial property is available. The study will also collect socioeconomic data so that the City’s growth and progress can be charted. Information from the study will also help with the Comprehensive Plan update, which is now underway.
No Recession: McBride noted the Federal Reserve’s recent announcement that no recession is expected. The Growth Council is seeing an extraordinary level of small business activity in a wide spectrum of fields. He called this exciting news for our downtown, with a lot of potential for start-ups. The Growth Council is advising local landlords to get their commercial and office spaces ready.
Nasson Dorms: In response to a question from Councilor Pete Tranchemontagne, McBride said this project has been pushed back due to delays on the part of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The developers have been doing what they can inside the buildings while waiting for the stormwater permit to come through.
Heart and Soul: McBride also gave an update on the Heart and Soul project, look for more information on that next week.
Medical Cannabis: Following a public hearing in which no one spoke in favor or against, a new medical cannabis grower/cultivator license was granted to Friendly Fire, LLC, at 168 Country Club Rd., Unit A. Councilor Jonathan Martell asked how many cannabis growers there are in Sanford. Code Enforcement Officer Jamie Cole responded that the number is always changing, as operators shut down and new ones open, but there are approximately 35 to 38 operating now.
Dangerous Buildings: The Council voted to confirm the findings and orders on the homes at 9 Devotion Ave. and 27 Riverside Ave. These two properties were adjudged to be Dangerous Buildings at the previous Council meeting. The hearing for the multi-family home at 7 Mill St., which was tabled on July 18, was reopened. Ian Houseal, Director of Community Development, said Code Enforcement was unable to complete an inspection on the property as the property manager did not show up, so it has been rescheduled for this week. He said it appeared that most of the violations had still not been addressed as of July 25. He also showed proof in the form of a signed receipt that the owners received the notices of violation from 2019, which they claimed at the previous meeting to have never received. The property owners were allowed to speak, but were quickly cut off by Mayor Brink and Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy, who said she didn’t want to hear excuses. Other Council members concurred that not enough had been done in the intervening two weeks. Herlihy read the findings and order and the vote was unanimous. There will be another vote at the next Council meeting to confirm the findings and order, then it will be recorded at the Registry of Deeds, following which the owners have 30 days to submit a rehab plan to the City. No occupancy of the building will be permitted until all violations have been addressed and the property complies with all building codes.
Central Park Bench Armrests: This agenda item was brought back after the Council deadlocked at the prior meeting with Mayor Brink absent. After hearing SPD Chief Craig Andersen speak in favor of the armrests, which prevent people from lying down and will help make the benches more available for those who want to sit, the motion was approved by a vote of 4-3, with Brink joining Councilors Tranchemontagne, Stackpole and Hitchcock in favor. The cost of purchasing and installing the armrests is $1,020.
Trail Maintenance: The Council voted to approve work on the Mousam Way Loop Trail behind Sanford High School. The low bid from STS Construction of Lebanon was $38,270. Every effort will be made to get the work done before the Cross-Country team begins their season.
Midtown Mall Assessment: The Council approved the maintenance assessment for the Midtown Mall, which is based on the prior year’s costs. Frequent messy snowstorms this past winter, plus a repair project on the concourse stairs, contributed to a big increase over the previous year’s maintenance costs. The total actual costs were $54,820.45, of which 60% is assessed to the two large property owners at the Mall. Only contracted expenses can be part of the assessment, so work done by the City’s DPW and Parks & Rec is not included. The assessment is being phased in over a three-year period, so the owners will pay 2/3 of the 60%, or $21,928.18 total. Councilors indicated they would like to see the landscaping spruced up a little bit on the property. Houseal said he would work with Parks & Rec on that.
Backhoe: The Council approved the purchase of a CAT 440 backhoe for the DPW, at a cost of $156,145. Public Works Director Matt Hill said the operators and mechanics in the Department reviewed two proposals thoroughly and recommended the CAT 440 even though it was less expensive than the other machine. The backhoe will be purchased from Milton CAT of Scarborough, which he said has an excellent working relationship with the City.
Resignation: The Council voted to accept the resignation of Kevin McKeon from the Trails Committee. DM Herlihy made the motion “with extreme regret…he has been a wonderful member of the Committee,” she said. Mayor Brink added that McKeon’s hard work over the past six years was appreciated.
Randall’s Run: The Council authorized the pedestrian use of sidewalks and road shoulders along part of Main and Heidi Streets for Randall’s Run/Walk for the Gym, which will take place September 2 from 8:15 to 9:15 a.m.
- Mayor Brink announced the passing of former Mayor Tom Cote’s mother this past week. She thanked DM Herlihy, and Councilors Hitchcock and Martell for their willingness to run for reelection.
- Councilor Ayn Hanselmann gave a shoutout to the Friends of Downtown and organizer Kimberly Stewart for the successful Cruising with Friends event. She invited people to come to the Sanford Backpack Program’s fundraiser at McDougal Orchard on August 19.
- DM Herlihy provided last minute updates of the Mainers’ playoff game, who won just as the meeting came to a close.