City Council 8/2 Meeting Summary

The Sanford City Council met August 2, 2022. All members were present.

The minutes of the July 19 and July 26 meetings were approved.

Mayor’s Report

Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio had two announcements of upcoming events:

  • Rolling Thunder Chapter One Maine and the Southern Maine Veterans Cemetery will dedicate the POW/MIA memorial there on Saturday, September 24. This memorial has been years in the planning and the public is invited to attend.
  • The Sanford Police Department’s National Night Out is this coming Tuesday, August 9, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Central Park. See our event listing for more details.

City Manager’s Report

Pavement Striping: City Manager Steve Buck announced that handwork to do pavement striping began Monday night, and will go into next week depending on weather and time. The project was significantly delayed due to the ongoing labor shortage. Fineline is the contractor doing the work. The City is currently exploring using equipment and labor from the Airport and Highway departments to do this type of work inhouse beginning next year.

Property Tax Stabilization: A new program for seniors allows senior citizens who qualify to stabilize, or freeze, the property taxes on their homestead.  As long as you qualify and file a timely application each year, the tax billed to you for your homestead will be frozen at the amount you were billed in the prior tax year. Eligible residents who move may transfer the fixed tax amount to a new homestead, even if that new homestead is in a different Maine municipality. To be eligible, you must be at least 65 years of age and a permanent Maine resident who has owned a qualified homestead for at least ten years prior to application. There is no income limit for this program. You must apply every year to continue to have your property tax frozen. It does not freeze your valuation or assessment, only the amount you are billed by the City. Applications will be accepted at the Assessor’s office in City Hall from August 8 through December 1 for next year’s tax bill. Go to this page for more info. or look for the insert in your tax bill this month. The State of Maine will pay the City the difference between what the homeowner pays and the actual taxes due.

Website Update: The City’s new website is expected to be rolled out the week of August 22, after Department Managers have been trained in its use.

Planner: The City has a new Planner, Kyle Boyd. After the position was vacant for nearly 1 ½ years, the Planning Department will now be able to catch up and complete the Comprehensive Plan Update that is way behind schedule.

Nomination Papers Available: See this story.

There were no Communications or Presentations, and no Public Participation.

Public Hearings

International Woolen Mill Bond: A public hearing was held on whether to place a question on the ballot in November to allow the City to raise a $1 Million bond for the purpose of demolition and clean up of the property and construction of a new parking lot there. Earlier this year, the City declared the boiler house there to be a Dangerous Building under state law.

Regco, Inc., a Florida company, owns five properties in the millyard including the huge L-shaped International Woolen Company main building, the boiler house, a small sliver of land between the two, a 3.5 acre vacant lot on the other side of Heritage Lane, and a half acre lot next to it which also includes the small brick transformer house and fire pump house.

Ian Houseal, Sanford’s Director of Community Development, told the Council that the Regco properties are scheduled for potential foreclosure in February of 2023. He said the City has exhausted all avenues for legal action against Regco. Mr. Buck added that unless the City steps forward and takes control, no progress can be made as the company is now defunct.

Planning Director Beth Della Valle said the $1 million bond can be used as matching funds to leverage millions more in federal brownfields money, as well as other loans and grants to clean up and redevelop the site.

No members of the public spoke in favor or in opposition. The Council voted unanimously to put the bond question on the ballot in November.

Midtown Mall Development District: A public hearing was held on the designation of a Midtown Mall Development District and adoption of a development program for the district, which would allow the City to assess the two largest property owners there for a share of the maintenance costs of the parking areas. This proposal has been discussed over the past several months. It costs the City in excess of $75,000 to maintain the parking areas, including snow removal and striping. Under the proposal, the property owners will be assessed 60% of those costs that are contracted to outside labor – not the costs that are borne by the City’s Public Works Department and Parks Department – with a maximum assessment of $22,000 a year. The assessment will be phased in over a three-year period.

Kristen Collins, an attorney for Meggs Properties, one of the Mall owners, said she does not believe this proposal complies with state law. She added that if the property owners are being taxed on the parking spots, they should have sole control over them.

No other members of the public spoke in favor or against the proposal.

After the public hearing closed, the Council discussed the measure. Mr. Buck responded to Ms. Collins’ statement about the parking spaces, explaining that the 60/40 split of the costs with the City is in recognition of the usage of the parking areas by other businesses. The Council voted unanimously to create the Midtown Mall Development District and establish the Maintenance Assessment.

Sanford Property Holdings TIF: A public hearing was held on an amendment to the Municipal Tax Increment Financing District located at the intersection of Routes 4 and 109 in South Sanford, behind the gas station and McDonald’s. Mr. Buck explained that this is the third amendment to the TIF, due to the changes in the original development plan for the property. Originally it was created for a plan to construct a hotel and commercial building on the site. It was amended when the JADD Partners, LLC, constructed the 12-unit Austin Place apartments last year and the hotel plan was abandoned. Changes in the real estate market led to the commercial building being changed to the new proposed 24-unit Austin Place 2. No members of the public spoke in favor or against the amendment, which Mr. Buck said will bring the City significantly more tax revenue over the next 30 years. The Council approved it unanimously.

Charter Amendments: See this story about the Council’s vote to recommend eliminating the Budget Committee. Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio also recommended a change to the Charter to make the term of Mayor three years instead of two (If enacted, it would apply to future Mayors, not to her current term). She said two years is not long enough to move forward with an agenda.

Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy said the reason the Mayor’s term was set at two years is so the Mayor would not always be up for reelection with the same Councilors, whose terms are three years. She said if two years isn’t long enough, a four-term term could be considered. After some discussion on the length of the term and term limits, no decision was reached. They will continue discussing the issue at the next meeting on August 16.

Police Department Command Structure: See separate story.

City Hall Hours of Operation: The Council unanimously approved shifting City employees to a four-day work week where practicable. Mr. Buck recommended this change to enable the City to attract and retain employees. He said a compressed work week is one of the most sought-after attributes by job hunters. The new four-day work week will mean that all City Hall offices will be open Monday-Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The new schedule will take effect the week of August 29.

City Council Meeting Policy: After some discussion, the Council voted 6-1 to allow its meetings to extend until 10:00 p.m., and even longer if a majority votes to do so. Councilor Jonathan Martell was the sole vote in opposition to the change.

Councilor Comments

  • Councilor Michael Termath congratulated Sanford Babe Ruth’s U13-U15 team on winning the state championship. He announced that he will be running for reelection to the Council.
  • Councilor Becky Brink announced that she will be running for Mayor, as Mayor Mastraccio will not be seeking reelection.
  • Councilor Ayn Hanselmann announced that the Sanford Backpack Program has cancelled its community food distribution this Thursday due to the expected very hot weather. She gave a big shoutout to the Friends of Downtown for the very successful Cruising with Friends event last week, which drew a crowd of 600 people and 80 classic cars.
  • Councilor Bob Stackpole announced that he will be running for reelection to the Council.
  • Mayor Mastraccio officially announced that she is not running for reelection, but will instead seek election to the District 142 State Representative seat. She will continue to work as Mayor until her term ends on December 31 of this year.

Future Agenda Items

  • Councilor Martell asked for an update on what road construction projects have been completed this year, what work remains to be done, and what is scheduled for next year.
  • Councilor Hanselmann agreed, but said she would like a refresher on what has been done in the past three years. She would also like an update on the Police Department’s Lexis Nexis system. She said the new Sanford Arts Coalition would like to make a presentation to the Council or a Subcommittee.
  • Deputy Mayor Herlihy asked for an update on the Westside Village reconstruction.
  • Mayor Mastraccio asked for a discussion on issues that residents of Tanguay St. are continuing to experience since the name change from Sherburne St. She would like to iron out the problems before any further street names are changed. She would also like the Council to have a housing workshop.

The full City Council meeting video may be viewed on Town Hall Streams here and on YouTube here.