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The Sanford Johnson Mill Bridge carries the Great Works River under Sand Pond Road. Photo credit: Zendelle Bouchard

By Zendelle Bouchard

The Sanford City Council met Sept. 19, 2023. Councilor Bob Stackpole attended remotely, all other members were present in person. The minutes of the Sept. 6 meeting were approved.

Mayor’s Report

Mayor Becky Brink noted the previous week’s candlelight vigil for 13-year-old Chace Fromwiller, who inspired the community in his fight against childhood cancer.

Bricks: Brink asked that people please not take bricks that are left over from the demolition of the International Woolen Mill smoke stack. The City plans to crush and reuse the bricks in road construction projects.

Housing Workshop: The City Council will hold its annual housing workshop on Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 5 to 8 pm. The workshop will include presentations by Sanford Housing Authority, York County Community Action, the Sanford School Department and the Land Bank. The workshop is open to the public.

Candidates Night: This annual event will be held Oct. 12 at 6 pm, in person at City Hall and streamed on cable and YouTube. This year only City Council candidates will be included, as candidates for other offices are unopposed.

Subcommittee Reports

  • Councilor Ayn Hanselmann reported that the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council welcomed two new board members, Jim Chadbourne of Rubb Building Systems and John Tanguay of Partners Bank at its meeting earlier that day.
  • Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy asked residents to submit names of organizations and individuals who should be recognized by the City Council on Extra Mile Day in November. Contact any Councilor using the form on the City’s website at https://www.sanfordmaine.org/government/city_council/contact.php.

City Manager’s Report

Reimbursement: City Manager Steve Buck announced the City will receive the maximum reimbursement of $20,000 from the state for expenses associated with drafting ordinances related to adult-use cannabis stores.

SSN: Buck praised the work of the Sanford Springvale News in bringing information to the community and encouraged residents to sign up for the free e-newsletter which is sent out each Sunday. [Subscribe at https://sanfordspringvalenews.com/sign-up/.]

Homelessness Update: He gave a lengthy report on the status of asylum seekers and resident homeless in Sanford. He noted that porta-potties with sharps containers have been installed next to the Police Station, and are being monitored for the first month. The Sanford-Springvale YMCA is making its showers available to unhoused people, thanks to private donations. The Homeless Task Force heard a report about the centralized encampment on Biddeford city property, and will research and discuss that concept for Sanford, but Buck said he has received a 68-page report from the City’s legal counsel concerning the ramifications of that option. For this winter, the Task Force is focusing on the warming shelter slated to open at the Lafayette School in October. Read the full report at https://www.sanfordmaine.org/community/homelessness.php. Councilor Pete Tranchemontagne said he does not want to see a “tent city” in Sanford, and that the unhoused deserve better.

Communications / Presentations

Airport Events: Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport Manager Allison Navia joined the meeting to publicize Brew Fest, happening Saturday, Sept. 23 from 2-6 pm. The event is organized by the Chamber of Commerce and hosted by Pilot’s Cove Café at 199 Airport Rd. She also announced an aerobatic practice of the New England Aerobatic Club on Sept. 30 from 10 am to 5 pm. The public is welcome to park outside the Airport fence at the end of Gatehouse Dr. to watch the planes go through their air show routines.

Sanford Connects: Communications Coordinator Jordan Wilson gave a presentation on the new Sanford Connects community engagement hub which will allow the public to learn more about projects the City is working on and have much more input in a user-friendly platform. The site is not up yet, but will be online at sanfordconnects.com.

Public Participation

Jason Royce, an advocate for elderly and disabled people working with Southern Maine Civil Action, spoke about local landlords “charging insane rents” and problems with the Section 8 voucher system, which he said doesn’t provide enough to cover rents in the area. He encouraged people with complaints about their landlord to submit them at thesmca.org.

Public Hearings

Bridge Repairs: Jason Gallant, a consultant with Wright-Pierce, presented information on options for repairing the Sanford Johnson Mill Bridge, which has been downgraded by MaineDOT. The bridge spans the Great Works River at Sand Pond Road on the border with North Berwick. The 75-foot culvert underneath is rusting through and qualifies for federal funding to pay part of the replacement costs. Gallant outlined three options. The first option, to repair and preserve the culvert, would cost $1 million and last for 25 years. The other two options would each replace the existing structure at a cost of $3 million but last for 75 years. Any costs not funded by the state would be split between Sanford and North Berwick.

Lorraine Boston, President of the Bauneg Beg Lake Association, asked if the project would address phosphorus levels in the Lake due to erosion. Public Works Director Matt Hill responded that the phosphorus is coming from the sand that the town of North Berwick uses on its roads. Plow trucks from North Berwick cross the bridge and turn around on the Sanford side. Sanford PWD is not well-equipped to clean out sand in the existing ditches, but if the new bridge design includes catch basins with sumps, they will be able to vacuum it out.

The consultant will continue to work with City staff to complete the preliminary design report.

Old Business

RV Ordinance: After lengthy discussion, the Council voted to table the proposed ordinance regulating temporary use of recreational vehicles as living quarters. There was consensus that due to the noise of generators, language regarding electrical hookups should be added. The proposed ordinance will be reviewed by the Zoning Subcommittee on October 10 before coming back to the Council on October 17. The Subcommittee will also consider what circumstances might justify increasing the proposed 120-day limit to 180 days.

Shelter Licensing: The Council voted to permanently adopt amendments to ordinances establishing a shelter license, standards and fees. The amendments were adopted on an emergency basis in July.

Fire Marshal’s Office: The Council voted to approve amendments to the city code pursuant to the elimination of the office of the Fire Marshal, which was effective June 30.

New Business

General Assistance: The Council voted to approve emergency amendments to the General Assistance ordinance to adopt the new state maximums for benefits. A public hearing will be held at the first Council meeting in October, and the Council will vote to make the new maximums permanent at its second October meeting. Vicki Martin, Sanford’s new Director of General Assistance said the maximums have not increased much over last year. The new maximum food allowance is $291 per month for a single person, and $973 for a family of four. The housing maximum for a heated one-bedroom apartment is $1,200 monthly. The maximum monthly income to qualify for assistance is going up to $1,154 for a single person and $1,961 for a family of four. Her department is spending 90 to 95% of its allocation on housing right now. She said they are seeing an increase in the number of seniors who can no longer get by on social security. All the information on maximum income and benefits is posted outside the GA office at City Hall.

Memorial Gym Rentals: The Council voted to approve the list of organizations which can rent the Veterans Memorial Gym for the cost of cleaning only, which is $57 per hour with a two-hour minimum. Those organizations are:

  • City departments and committees
  • The Sanford School Department, student class activities and PTAs
  • Sports organizations including SSYAA, Little League, Babe Ruth, Sanford Soccer, Sanford Spartan Basketball and Sanford Youth Wrestling
  • The Sanford Alumni Association
  • Local churches if holding community fundraisers or clothing/food drives
  • Strategies for a Stronger Sanford organizations
  • Scouting groups

Other community groups wishing to use the Gym for the cost of cleaning can apply with the City to get on the list. Under a separate agenda item, the Council approved a full facility rental rate for the Gym of $150 per hour for residents and $200 per hour for nonresidents. The full facility rate is for larger events like gun shows and craft fairs.

Recreational Fees: The Council approved increasing the fees for drop-in adult basketball from $3 to $4, and for pickleball from $4 to $5.

Health Officer: The Council approved the appointment of Fire Chief Scott Susi as the City’s new Health Officer, replacing Dr. William Frank who held the post for many years. City Manager Buck thanked Dr. Frank for his service to the City, during which time he donated his compensation back to the community. Assistant Fire Chief Rick Smith was appointed as alternate Health Officer.

Sewerage District Office: The Council approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the City and the Sanford Sewerage District, to ultimately purchase the SSD building at 281 River St. for $340,000. The building will be used as the new headquarters of the Parks Department and enable their trucks and equipment to be stored indoors. The SSD will be building new offices at the sewerage treatment facility off Gavel Road in the next few years. The River Street property sits in one of the Sanford Water District’s wellhead protection zones; the MOU will give the Water District right of first refusal if the City ever decides to sell the property. Councilor Nate Hitchcock, who is also a SSD trustee, abstained from voting on this item.

Tax Acquired Properties: The Council voted to authorize the sale of the following properties which were foreclosed on for unpaid property taxes. Any excess funds from the sales will go back to the former owners.

  • 12 Proulx Ct., formerly owned by the heirs of Marion Dashnaw, foreclosed in 2020
  • 13 Island Ave., formerly owned by Martin Vachon, foreclosed in 2020
  • 2 Oscar Ave., formerly owned by Mitchell Urban, foreclosed in 2022
  • 22 North Ave., formerly owned by Rachel Grondin, foreclosed in 2022
  • 33 Island Ave., formerly owned by Christopher Farris, foreclosed in 2022
  • 46 High St., formerly owned by High Street Rental Property LLC, foreclosed in 2023

Dangerous Building Hearings: See separate story.

Councilor Comments: Councilor Hitchcock congratulated the Rotary Club on its centennial. “Here’s to another hundred years,” he added.

Future Agenda Items: Deputy Mayor Herlihy said the Council should discuss addressing engine brakes, also known as jake brakes, which can be very noisy. City Manager Buck, a former truck driver, said engine brakes are an important safety feature, and that the noise is not caused by the brakes but by illegal modifications to a truck’s exhaust system. He said what is needed is more enforcement of the existing noise ordinance. Mayor Brink asked for a presentation on the status of the opioid settlement funds, and how they will be spent.

The full City Council meeting may be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/@WSSRTV and on Town Hall Streams at https://townhallstreams.com/towns/sanfordme.

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