Sanford Public Works Director Matt Hill (on Zoom) addresses the Council.
By Zendelle Bouchard
The Sanford City Council met August 15, 2023. Councilor Ayn Hanselmann was absent with notice; all other members were present.
Mayor’s Report & Subcommittee Reports
Mayor’s Report: Mayor Becky Brink asked about the process for conducting the City Manager’s annual performance review, which is due in September. She will request the necessary documents from the City’s Human Resources Department. She also asked for a report on the status and plans for any opioid settlement funds that the City has received or will be receiving.
Zoning: Councilor Bob Stackpole reported that the Zoning Subcommittee finalized the update on the zoning ordinance regulating recreational vehicles used as living quarters on private property. It will be on the next Council meeting agenda for a first reading.
City Manager’s Report
Homeless Task Force: City Manager Steve Buck reported on the August 14 meeting on the Homeless Task Force, which includes representatives from partner agencies including the Sanford Police and Fire Departments, York County Community Action Corp. (YCCAC), York County Shelter Programs (YCSP) and others. The Task Force heard reports on the current status of the asylum-seeking families in Sanford/Springvale as well as our resident unhoused population. A few of the items discussed included:
- Assistant Superintendent of Schools Steve Bussiere reported on the School District’s work to help unhoused youth. There were 117 unhoused youth in the school system last year.
- Short-term issues discussed by the Task Force included the lack of public restrooms in the downtown area, trash management, and the ongoing search for a new location for the Peer Support Center. The Sanford Police Department’s parking lot has been suggested as a location for porta-potties.
- YCCAC and the City of Sanford are partnering on applications for funds from the state’s supplemental budget for 30 Housing First beds. A developer has been identified and land for the project is under consideration.
- The Town of Alfred is asking York County to separate plans for the new Recovery Center and Regional Public Safety Training Center, as they do not want the Recovery Center in Alfred, according to Buck. The two projects are being funded by federal ARPA grants.
- Plans to turn Lafayette School into a warming center and food service location are moving ahead. YCSP will operate the center and plans to open by October 15. The warming center will be open during periods of inclement weather and cold temperatures.
- Buck said his recent meeting with state officials was a disappointment. Emergency funds through MaineHousing are nearly exhausted and shelter operations are continually at risk. The state’s Office of New Americans won’t open until 2025 and will focus on workforce development rather than housing.
See the City’s website for more details on the Homeless Task Force’s work: https://www.sanfordmaine.org/community/homelessness.php.
Weed Control: Buck responded to questions by Councilors at the Property Subcommittee meeting about weed control for the city’s sidewalks. He said weed control application has been planned twice this year but had to be rescheduled both times due to weather. It is now being planned for August 20-21. The City does not use glyphosate (Roundup) but uses glufosinate ammonium instead. Glufosinate has reduced persistence in the soil and has less impact on water supplies. It is a contact herbicide which kills plants but does not prevent new ones from growing, he said.
Communications / Presentations
Vital Records: City Clerk Sue Cote announced that the City’s new online request system for vital records is up and running and is very easy to use. A link on the City’s website (https://www.sanfordmaine.org/departments/city_clerk/vital_records.php) takes you to the state website where you enter your information and pay for the records. Once that is complete, the Clerk’s office receives the request and promptly fills it. The online system is not mandatory – residents can still come into the office or request copies of birth, death or marriage certificates by mail.
Road Condition Report: see separate story.
Zoning Change: A public hearing on the proposal to change the zoning for the property at 1 Park St. from Single Family Residential to Urban received no comments. Under a separate line item, the first reading on the change was held. The Council will vote on it at the September 5 meeting. Buck noted that the Planning Board recommended the change unanimously, and there was no opposition from the public.
Dangerous Building: The Council voted to confirm the findings and order on the Dangerous Building at 7 Mill St. without comment.
RAISE Grant Traffic Controls: Public Works Director Matt Hill presented some concepts for how traffic might be detoured around the RAISE grant road reconstruction projects, which are scheduled to begin in 2026, and asked for input from the Council.
For the Route 202/Cottage Street project, he said the primary consideration is keeping an open flow of traffic toward the hospital. Traffic coming from Alfred will be one way toward June Street, and one way from Main Street to June Street. Vehicles will have to turn right or left at that intersection. Councilor Jonathan Martell suggested a detour for large trucks coming from Alfred at the Grammar Road/Shaw’s Ridge intersection, rather than allowing them to continue on to June Street as that would require more difficult turns. Mayor Brink suggested driving proposed detours with large vehicles to try them out before finalizing routes.
For the Downtown project, plans are for traffic to be one-way heading north on Main Street between Emery Street and Winter Street, with parking allowed on one side of the road only. Traffic would also be one way on Washington Street heading toward Main, with a Do Not Enter sign at Pioneer Ave. Further planning is needed to determine how to have the least impact on Sanford Fire and Police Department operations.
New Truck: The Council approved the purchase of a 2023 Ram 2500 from Marc Motors for the Parks and Recreation Department at the lowest bid of $75,287. The purchase was included in this year’s budget. Marc Motors will take the standard bed off the truck and replace it with an eight-foot service bed, to allow more equipment to be transported. The truck will also have a plow for winter use.
Public Private Partnership: The Council approved entering into a public/private partnership with the owner of the property at 6 River St. That property will become the parking lot for the new Mousam River Bistro restaurant, which is going into the old Car Quest building. Under the PPP, the City will pay the cost of reconstructing the parking lot, and in exchange will receive an easement for the Fire Department to use the lot to access Number One Pond for emergency water use as well as for training purposes. City Manager Buck said the agreement will include a mortgage so that if the property is sold in the next fifteen years, the City will recoup some of the cost of the improvements from the proceeds.
JAG Grant: The Council approved an interlocal agreement with the City of Biddeford and York County to share funds from the annual Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, commonly known as the JAG Grant. Deputy Police Chief Eric Small said Sanford’s share, $17,239, will be used this year to purchase safety equipment for the Special Response Team, four new body-worn cameras and six new signal sidearm activators for the patrol division, and forensic data analysis software for the criminal investigative division.
Safe Streets For All: The Council approved awarding the contract for creating the Safe Streets for All (SS4A) Action Plan to VHB of South Portland. The total cost is $200,000, which is under budget, so the City’s share of the cost will be $40,000, rather than the $50,000 originally budgeted. The Action Plan will help Sanford identify priorities for improvements to increase safety and reduce traffic fatalities. The City can then apply for grants to do the work. VHB has experience generating documents for the Federal Highway Administration concerning safety action plans and is an industry leader in transportation equity planning.
Financial Reports: The Council voted to accept and approve the last quarter and year-end financial reports for Fiscal Year 2022/23. See our previous story for details: https://sanfordspringvalenews.com/fiscal-year-ends-with-expenses-revenues-above-projections/. Buck said he will not make any recommendation for utilizing the excess revenue but would like to see it held in reserve for next year’s budget, which he anticipates will be “far more difficult” due to projected lower increases in non-property tax revenues.
Code of Conduct: In a late addition to the agenda, Mayor Brink proposed amending the Councilors’ Code of Conduct to enable them to request information from city staff without going through the City Manager’s office. Paragraph six of the CoC reads “A City Councilor may not give direction to City Staff but must make all requests through the City Manager’s Office with the full knowledge of the Mayor.” To that she proposed adding the following sentence: “This section is not intended to prevent the City Councilors from seeking information from a staff member, whether verbally or in writing.” The amendment was approved unanimously.
The Mayor and several Councilors had positive comments about the Police Department’s National Night Out event last week. Councilor Pete Tranchemontagne wished his wife a happy anniversary. Councilor Nate Hitchcock thanked the Sanford Arts Commission for the first Art Walk held last week.
Future Agenda Items
Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy expressed concern that City Ordinances may allow the Planning Board to overrule the Fire Chief’s recommendations regarding sprinkler systems. She said a volunteer board should not be able to mandate something that the Fire Chief says is recommended, but not required. She asked that the Zoning Subcommittee take a look at the ordinances.
City Manager Buck praised the work of the Sanford Springvale News and asked that City officials and the business community work with the volunteers publishing the SSN to help them get the publication, currently only available online, back into print.
Herlihy said the City’s Annual Report is available now and Communications Coordinator Jordan Wilson did a great job with the layout.