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City Council Meeting Summary: March 2, 2021

Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy led the pledge of allegiance, and dedicated the moment of silence to Deputy Fire Chief Steve Cutter, who passed away last March, and to everyone working on the front lines of the pandemic.

Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio reported on the opening of the new vaccine center. (See separate story.) She asked council members to use their personal phone numbers on their Facebook pages, rather than the city’s phone number. She said she is taking down her own Facebook page, and prefers to be contacted by phone or email.

Councilor John Tuttle, who is also one of Sanford’s Representatives to the State Legislature, gave an update on his work in Augusta. He said one of his goals this session is to make sure the economic recovery from the pandemic leaves nobody behind. He is serving on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, which oversees voting rights and marijuana, among other things. He spoke about the bills he has put forward, and asked constituents who need assistance with legislative matters to call him at 324-5964. He is unable to have weekly constituent hours due to the pandemic.

Subcommittee reports followed. See previous story.

Councilor Ayn Hanselmann announced that the new name of the old Junior High School will be Sanford Pride Elementary School. See separate story.

City Manager Steven Buck gave an update on the Covid-19 data and vaccine progress across the state and county. See separate story.

Mr. Buck updated the Council on the negotiations with Comcast regarding a second cable franchise in Sanford. He said the city will move on this quickly to be able to provide Sanford residents with more choice and competitive pricing in cable and internet service. They expect to be able to build out their system in as little as 18 months.

Diane Gerry, director of Sanford Housing Authority, and Officer Eric Small gave a presentation on the Envision Center they plan to open at Sunset Tower. The Envision Center will bring services provided by several agencies together in one place, with the goal of reducing and preventing homelessness. Ms. Gerry will send the application packet to HUD, and said she expects a quick turnaround as there is no funding required. The space at Sunset Tower is available, and staffing will be provided by the participating agencies, which also include York County Community Action, York County Shelter Programs, Caring Unlimited, and others. There are 99 Envision Centers across the country, but this will be the first one in Maine. The Council voted unanimously to send a letter of support.

Officer Small gave a shout out to members of the community who have assisted his work with Sanford’s homeless population by donating gift cards and other items.

Under public participation, Dianne Connolly asked if the city could look into providing a warming center for residents who lose power during cold weather.

A public hearing on Gaia Farms application for a medical marijuana grower/cultivator license renewal was held with no input either pro or con. The Council unanimously approved the renewal.

Ian Houseal, Sanford’s Director of Community Development, requested approval of the use of $26,000 from a TIF fund to match a $99,000 grant he plans to apply for. The money would create a revolving loan fund for downtown businesses to use for façade improvements, working capital or other gap financing. Councilor Robert Stackpole pointed out that the requested funds will not come out of the budget or impact the taxpayers in any way. The Council approved the request unanimously.

The Council voted to send a letter of support for the Maine Sports Resort project. Ms. Herlihy told the other council members that the project was making great progress toward attracting financing before the pandemic began, but then had to be put on hold. Plans are now being scaled back, and will include many of the outdoor recreation elements, but not the convention center and hotel, at least for now. Mayor Mastraccio said the project represented a real opportunity for Sanford as there is increased interest in outdoor recreation activities. Councilor Jonathan Martell expressed concern that the project could be a drain on city resources. Mr. Buck replied that financial impacts have been studied extensively, and the project should be a net importer of wealth into the community. He added that it will bring “good, clean family entertainment” to Sanford. Councilor Lucas Lanigan expressed his support as well.

Under Councilor Comments, Councilor Robert Stackpole said he wanted to make residents aware that if you have had other vaccines, such as the flu or shingles shot, you must wait 14 days before you can get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Mr. Lanigan announced that his wife Catalina became a US citizen last week. He also questioned whether the Council should consider meeting in person again. Mayor Mastraccio said she doesn’t see that happening in the near future, adding that she finds it hard to hear the School Committee members at their in-person meetings because of the masks.

Under Future Agenda Items, Councilor Lanigan said he has been getting calls about the Police Department visits to local businesses to check on compliance with the mask ordinance, and suggested that be revisited.

The full City Council meeting can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m24HLbqcgco&t=2690s.

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