Subcommittee Meeting Notes: September 13, 2022

Google map showing the paper street that was discussed in red. See the tax map below for more detail.

Three of the City Council’s subcommittees met Tuesday, September 13, 2022. This is a brief summary of items discussed at each meeting.

Municipal Operations and Property

Members: Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio, Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy, Councilor Becky Brink

Zoning Amendments: The Subcommittee briefly discussed the amendments to the zoning ordinance relating to the Urban Zone, which had a first reading at the last City Council meeting. It was clarified that the proposed amendment relating to front yard setbacks would take properties on both sides of the street into account in determining the average setback. A second reading and vote to adopt will be held at the September 20 meeting.

Paper Street: Community Development Director Ian Houseal presented some information on the “paper street” at the extension of Coolidge Ave., between Harding St. and Putnam St. (A paper street is land that is set aside by the City when a parcel is subdivided for possible use as a roadway when and if back lots are developed.) An abutter who is using part of the paper street to access their garage has requested that the City vacate its interest in the paper street, which would divide the property among the abutters. Planning Director Beth Della Valle encouraged the Subcommittee to look carefully before making a decision to vacate any paper street, particularly in the designated growth areas of the City. “Once you let go of it, you don’t get it back,” she said. Public Works Director said he didn’t disagree with Ms. Della Valle, but pointed out that every new street that the City accepts is more work for his Department. City Manager Steven Buck noted that all the abutting lots have road access via an existing street, except for a City-owned back lot (marked by the blue pin below) which is wetland. However, he said the discussion may be moot as the City’s interest may already be deemed vacated by the fact that the City didn’t accept the street and nothing was built within 15 years of the subdivision being established. Mr. Houseal will work to determine the current status before taking the matter any further.

Regco Property: There was further discussion on the land across from the abandoned International Woolen Co. mill, which is owned by Regco. Det. Colleen Adams of the Sanford Police Department’s Mental Health Unit reported last month that it has become littered with trash and discarded needles. Mr. Houseal said all the Regco properties, including the mill building, are scheduled for automatic municipal foreclosure in February 2023, due to property tax liens which are maturing. Unless the liens are paid off before then, the properties will automatically become City-owned unless the City Council specifically decides to waive foreclosure. The properties are known to be contaminated with toxic heavy metals. Ms. Della Valle said the land in question is a brownfields property that has had multiple environmental assessments done. She asked that any cleanup be delayed until she can prepare an adequate cleanup plan that will not expose anyone to contaminants and will keep the City in the good graces of the Environmental Protection Agency. She has some leftover funds in the brownfields account that can be dedicated to a cleanup plan. Mayor Mastraccio suggested that in the meantime, the City post signs on its abutting property warning people that the site is potentially hazardous.

Knox Boxes: Fire Chief Steve Benotti and Fire Marshal Patrick Cotter joined the meeting to present a draft ordinance to require buildings with three or more units, of which at least one is residential, to have Knox boxes. Knox boxes are key safes that are affixed to the outside of buildings, containing keys to access the building and the individual units. All the larger apartment buildings and many commercial properties in Sanford already have boxes installed. Knox boxes allow firefighters to access the building quickly and safely without doing damage to any part of the building. They use them to gain access to common areas, mechanical rooms, living and business units. In many apartments in the city the Fire Department has to go through two doors to get to the person who called for help. Knox boxes also eliminate the need to call for a key holder, which saves time and allows emergency access when a key holder is often more than 30 minutes or more away.  The Fire Department has the master key to all the Knox boxes in the City. The boxes cost $459 each plus shipping, less than the cost of installing a new door. If the ordinance is enacted, building owners will have 365 days to purchase and install a box and make keys available to the Fire Department. Subcommittee members agreed this would be a positive change, and it will be forwarded to the full Council for consideration.

Surplus Fire Engine: Chief Benotti told the Subcommittee the new fire engine is expected to be in service by Wednesday. It is replacing Engine 2 which will become surplus. He has been approached by the Alfred Fire Department which would like to purchase it, and they have agreed on a price of $12,000. Chief Benotti said the Alfred department has been a good mutual aid partner and he didn’t expect to get any more than that if it was put out to bid. The Alfred Fire Chief will have to get approval from the town’s Board of Selectmen. The Subcommittee members had no problem with pursuing the sale.

Trail Agreement: Parks and Recreation Director Brady Lloyd presented a proposal for a joint project with Three Rivers Land Trust and the Native Plant Trust, to develop a new public access trail through two private pieces of property, connecting the Sanford Community Forest with the Rhododendron Sanctuary. There is a current trail, but it is problematic due to insufficient parking. The new trail would roughly follow the boundary between 490 and 498 Oak St. in Springvale. The bulk of the funding to construct the trail would come from grant money, but the City and the two organizations would each contribute $4,167 in matching funds. The City’s portion would come from the trails capital improvements budget. The trail will be for non-motorized use. The Trails Committee will work some more on the proposal and it will be forwarded to the City Council for permission to apply for the grant.

Memorial Gym: Mr. Lloyd presented his proposal for rental fees for the Veterans Memorial Gym. He researched what other facilities charge in developing the fee schedule. There was discussion about the possibilities for renting the kitchen facilities in the building, but Mr. Lloyd wasn’t certain whether the School District would still have some use of it. The proposal will be forwarded to the full City Council at next week’s meeting.

Public Safety Subcommittee

Members: Councilor Ayn Hanselmann, Councilor Becky Brink, Mayor Mastraccio (sitting in for Councilor Jonathan Martell)

Maine Access Points: Kristin Doneski, Director of Southern Maine programming for Maine Access Points (MAP) joined the meeting to provide an update on the services her organization provides. MAP’s services in Sanford include syringe disposal and exchange, dispensing of injection drug use supplies, safer sex supplies, education on harm reduction and overdose prevention, and referral to medical services and/or substance use treatment. Their mobile unit is in Sanford each Tuesday and Friday from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Heritage Crossing near Weaver Dr. She reported there have been 378 overdose reversals in the community using Narcan supplied by MAP since 2020. They have seen 262 unique participants, including 48 in the last four to six months. They have distributed 4,363 Narcan kits and collected 467,606 syringes. They collect syringes from diabetics and others, not just drug users, and are collecting more syringes than they distribute at this point. They have done five referrals to drug treatment clinic suboxone programs. They see an average of 20 to 25 people at each outreach session. She said they would like to do an evening outreach program as well as there is a definite need here. They have developed a relationship with St. George’s Church and hope to continue that.

There was discussion of ways to reduce the number of discarded syringes that are littering certain areas of the community. Ms. Doneski said she worked in Boston for many years and found needle drop boxes to be very effective, especially if they are installed near a needle exchange location. Subcommittee members were very receptive to the idea of drop boxes. Police Chief Craig Andersen invited Ms. Doneski to meet with the members of the Department’s Mental Health Unit to discuss it further.

Covid Update: Mr. Houseal presented the latest Covid statistics. He said he questions the accuracy of some of the information that is being distributed on vaccination rates. He recommended people begin regarding Covid vaccination as a regular thing like flu shots. Sanford Sewerage District Superintendent André Brousseau joined the meeting to address questions he has received about detection of polio virus in the wastewater, after several cases were diagnosed in New York. It can be detected in wastewater, but he said no lab in Maine is currently testing for it. The CDC will reach out to communities if they want to start sampling for polio.

Online Reporting: Chief Andersen gave an update on the Police Department’s new online reporting system. He said there have been some growing pains since it went online in May. To date, only 49 online reports have been received, although the number of online reports is growing steadily each month. He said now that some of the bugs have been worked out, he expects substantial growth in the usage of the system. Deputy Chief Eric Small said one issue is that officers have been reluctant to refer people to the online system, feeling that they are not providing the best service. But he is working to help them learn when it is appropriate to suggest online reporting, and when it is better to take the report in person. There will be a demonstration of the system at an upcoming Council meeting. You can learn more about the online reporting system, and access it here:  https://www.sanfordmaine.org/policeonlinereport.

Solid Waste Subcommittee

Members: Bob Stackpole, Mike Termath, Deputy Mayor Herlihy

Transfer Station: Public Works Director Matt Hill and Transfer Station Foreman Dee Smith-McLeod spoke about some issues that have come up there.

  • Smoke detectors: The City is being charged $10 each for disposal of smoke detectors, and would like to be able to pass that charge along to residents. Smoke detectors contain radioactive material and should not be disposed of in regular trash or recycling.
  • Small propane tanks: There will be a charge $1 each for small Coleman propane tanks (the kind you use with camp stoves). The Coleman tanks were being put into the metal bin, but Ms. Smith-McLeod plans to start disposing of them properly.
  • Inert reusable materials: Now that the Public Works yard is closed on Fridays, contractors have been coming to the Transfer Station to dump truckloads of reusable materials such as concrete and rocks. The Transfer Station is not set up to properly separate these materials, so the Subcommittee agreed that these should be rejected, and contractors directed to bring them to the Public Works yard when it is open.
  • Ash: A separate space for fireplace and woodstove ash is being set up at the Transfer Station. These should not be put in with leaves and brush.
  • Kitty litter: Kitty litter should also not be dumped in with leaves and grass, and must be double bagged for disposal (in a regular plastic bag, then inside the orange PAYT bag) with regular trash.
  • Porcelain fixtures: Toilets, sinks and other porcelain fixtures should now be put into the bulky bin, rather than with the rock pile. The cost for disposing of them is still $2 each.
  • Business recycling: Mr. Hill said small businesses in the City may recycle paper and plastic at the Transfer Station as long as they are also using PAYT bags for their trash, and the amount of recyclables does not exceed what a normal household would generate.

Maine Resource Recovery Association (MRRA): Ms. Smith-McLeod suggested the City join this organization, with connects communities to pool recyclables and get the best prices and dispose of difficult items. Mr. Hill said he didn’t even know the MRRA existed and highly recommended joining. Subcommittee members agreed. The cost is $500 per year.

EcoMaine Contamination Survey: Alexandria Kane from EcoMaine joined the meeting to go over the results of the survey that was conducted over the summer. Three interns inspected curbside recycling and tagged it with red (meaning contaminated/dangerous, don’t pick up), yellow (contaminated/not dangerous, OK to pick up), and green (good to go) tags. They were able to engage with Sanford residents and provide education about recycling. Ms. Kane said the waste collection crew was unaware of the tagging program, and was taking the red tagged bins, even though Casella had be notified they should be rejected. Mr. Buck said he was “horrified” when he saw the data from the survey indicated that more than 43% of Sanford residents are not recycling at all. The main reasons for not recycling include lack of knowledge about the red sticker program, and not having uniform containers. Communications Coordinator Jordan Wilson is working with WSSR and the SHS Environmental Club to create some public service announcements about recycling. She will be posting on the City’s social media page about it as well.

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