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The arched windows of the City Hall Auditorium are visible on the Roberts St. side of the building.

Two of the City Council’s subcommittees met March 8 for work sessions. The following items were among those presented and discussed.

Municipal Operations and Property

Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio and Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy were joined by City Councilor Bob Stackpole, substituting for Becky Brink.

Transportation: Tom Reinauer, Transportation Director for York County Community Action, gave a presentation on YCCAC’s current transportation offerings and plans for future expansion of services. Two types of service are currently available:

  • Scheduled rides, including the WAVE bus, which transports people primarily to work, but also to medical and shopping appointments within Sanford and between our community and Wells and Biddeford seven days a week. People who need this service must schedule it in advance.
  • Fixed Route service, which includes the Sanford Transit bus that runs from Springvale to South Sanford Monday to Friday, the Orange Line bus to Wells and the Southern Maine Connector to Saco.

Mr. Reinauer said YCCAC’s plans include expanding the Southern Maine Connector with an additional vehicle, installing a bus shelter on School St. by the Sanford Housing Authority office, as well as a bus shelter at the new Park and Ride which will be constructed off Emerson St.

He has been working with the Public Works Department on signs which will be installed this spring at transit stops around the City, to make it clear where people should stand to wait for the bus.

He is also looking into offering a new microtransit service, which would augment the van pools that bring workers from Sanford to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The microtransit service would allow flexibility for people who have to leave work unexpectedly, if for example there was a family emergency or a child got sick.

Mr. Reinauer said that YCCAC transportation has been free during the pandemic and will continue to be free at least until June 1 and possibly for the summer. He is working on revamping the fare system to make it simpler before reintroducing fares.

ATV Club Request: Public Works Director Matt Hill presented a request from the Sanford ATV Club to allow ATVs to use a portion of the roadway along High St. to get from one trail to another. There was formerly a trail connection, but the landowner will no longer allow access. In the state of Maine, ATVs are allowed to travel up to 1500 feet on public roads when necessary, but the Club was requesting the City allow ATVs to travel on High St. for more than double that distance. Mr. Hill said he was inclined to deny the request, but brought it forward to the Subcommittee for their input.

Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy agreed with Mr. Hill, and said she does not consider the road to be safe in general as it has blind spots, curves and no shoulder. Mayor Mastraccio also voiced her disapproval of the proposal, adding “ATVs don’t belong on roads where people are driving 50 mph.”

A representative of the ATV Club respectfully disagreed, and said ATVs could easily keep up with the flow of traffic just as a motorcycle does, and might even cause cars to slow down to the 35 mph speed limit.

Kevin McKeon of Mousam Way Land Trust, which owns property along this stretch of High St., said his organization opposes the plan, not only for the physical damage to the environment that ATVs cause, but also for the noise that adversely affects wildlife.

Ms. Herlihy expressed concern that City Council approval would open the City to liability in the case of an accident. As there was no consensus among the Subcommittee members to approve the proposal, it will not go forward to the City Council.

City Hall Auditorium: City Manager Steve Buck said he had a request from the newly formed Sanford Arts Alliance to use the old auditorium at City Hall for events. He said the problem with granting the request is that the auditorium does not have restrooms nearby, and the building code would require the entire building to remain open after hours for access to restrooms on other floors, which raises security concerns.

Councilor Stackpole said he has felt for years that it is a shame the unique and historic auditorium can’t be utilized. “Many people don’t even know that space exists,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Herlihy agreed that it would be a great space to renovate and make available to the community. Mayor Mastraccio asked about the cost of a renovation to bring it up to code. Facilities Director Alex Hammerle said there is no plumbing at all on that side of the building and there was no simple route to connect it to the existing plumbing. He said it would require the installation of a new sewer line out to Roberts St., which would be “pretty expensive.”

Mr. Buck said there might be some federal funding or other grants available for those renovations. Subcommittee members were all agreed to allow the Arts Alliance to use the space in the meantime for a small event, if there are sufficient volunteers to direct attendees to the restrooms.

Public Safety

Councilors Ayn Hanselmann and Jonathan Martell were joined by Mayor Mastraccio, substituting for Councilor Brink.

Covid: Community Development Director Ian Houseal presented an update on the latest Covid statistics for Maine and York County. Mr. Houseal has been trying to get Sanford in the state’s wastewater monitoring program. He said it would be a good tool to monitor outbreaks of other diseases as well, including the flu.

Police Department Updates

Parking Enforcement: The Subcommittee heard from Chief Craig Andersen, Deputy Chief Eric Small and Executive Assistant Sherry Boucher about ongoing issues with people who don’t pay their parking tickets.

Ms. Boucher went over the numbers and said more than a third of parking tickets go unpaid. People who have unpaid parking tickets get monthly notifications, she said, but most go unanswered. Under the City Code, there are no ramifications for unpaid tickets.

Chief Andersen said he would like the Subcommittee to provide some direction in that regard, whether a certain dollar amount or number of unpaid tickets should trigger ramifications, and then discuss how that could be addressed.

DC Small said the officers who write the most tickets are on the overnight shift, and they are finding a number of different violations, including parking the wrong way, too close to the corner or in front of a fire hydrant. He said that officers are seeing the same people parked illegally night after night: “At some point you stop putting tickets on there…we need a mechanism by which we can take action.”

Discussion followed on whether putting a “boot” on a car, which prevents it from being driven, would be a better method than towing it. While towing creates additional expense for the violator, booting creates additional work for officers. Chief Andersen said there was also a concern that the boots might damage a vehicle, creating a liability for the City.

Mayor Mastraccio said she leaned toward towing as the solution, but thought that either way, the issue should be addressed without delay. “The law ceases to mean anything when you don’t follow through,” she said. City Manager Buck agreed that a law unenforced is useless. The Police Department will come up with a proposed ordinance and bring it to the City Council at a future meeting.

Overweight Vehicle Enforcement: Officer Andrew Raymond outlined the Department’s plan and preparation to address this springtime issue. He said heavy trucks including dump trucks and tractor trailers are not in violation of the road postings if they are unloaded. But DC Small said there are limitations on local police arbitrarily stopping vehicles, they have to be able to tell that a truck is loaded in order to pull it over.

Panhandling: Detective Colleen Adams said she received an email about a person approaching people in the CVS parking lot asking for money and making them uncomfortable. She said the person has been offered services many times, including shelter, recovery and mental health, and was currently at York County Jail on an unrelated issue. She was trying to get access to see him in the Jail to see if he is ready to accept help.

Homelessness Protocol: Det. Adams also spoke about the new homelessness crisis protocol issued by the state’s Attorney General. The state is discouraging local Police Departments from charging unhoused individuals with every possible crime, but instead encouraging them to offer assistance instead. Sanford is already doing this via the Mental Health Task Force, which Det. Adams heads up. The Task Force has designed a quick reference guide to accessing services including housing, food pantries, etc., to give to homeless people so they have the information when they are ready to get help.

Additional items were discussed at both Subcommittee meetings, and then forwarded to the City Council for their March 15 meeting. See that story for details.

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