Municipal Operations and Property
Midtown Mall parking: Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio, Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy and Councilor Becky Brink got an update on the Midtown Mall parking improvements from Community Development Director Ian Houseal. The walkway has been completed and the benches are in place, but the lighting for the walkway cannot be completed until spring as the new light fixture poles are on backorder. New landscaping is also planned to be installed in the spring.
There was further discussion of raising additional revenue for pay for maintenance and capital improvements of the parking lot. (See previous story.) Mr. Houseal said snow removal alone costs the City about $16,000 per year, and there are significant capital improvements that need to be made. The current light fixtures are high-pressure sodium lights which use an immense amount of electricity compared to the newer LEDs.
Some of the parking spaces at the Mall are contracted to businesses, including Partners Bank and the Sanford Mill. Mr. Houseal detailed a list of all the surrounding property owners and valuations of their properties. City Manager Steve Buck suggested they use the information to start working on a proposal for a Special Assessment District. Deputy Mayor Herlihy said the City Council has attempted this before and backed down due to pushback from property owners surrounding the Mall. “If we are making staff do all this work again, we should make sure we are committed,” she said. Mayor Mastraccio added that if the property owners decide that metering is a fairer way to do it, then that could be pursued, but that residential taxpayers and the other businesses in the City should not be paying for Mall maintenance. “This is basically an issue of fairness,” she said.
Sherburne St. Renumbering: See separate story.
New Bus Shelter: Tom Reinauer from York County Community Action spoke to the Subcommittee about a new bus shelter which will be installed in the spring on School St., between the Sanford Housing Authority office and Central Park. The shelter will not have benches or seats, but will be covered and enclosed on three sides to keep out wind and rain.
Mr. Houseal said three additional locations for bus shelters have been proposed, one at Nasson Health Care, one at the Airport and another behind Cumberland Farms where a new Park-and-Ride will be constructed. The shelters and the costs associated with installing them are being funded through grants.
Masking Policy: Mr. Buck went through a proposed policy to mandate the wearing of face masks by anyone entering City Hall and other municipal facilities, other than single-occupancy offices. Dispatchers will not be required to wear masks due to the possibility of interfering with communication. He said 12% of the City’s employees are unvaccinated. He anticipates the mandate will be of 30-day duration. Masks will be made available for visitors. Although last week the City Council discussed having an emergency meeting to enact a mask policy, instead it will be voted on at the next Council meeting January 18.
Public Safety Subcommittee
Police Department Staffing: Mayor Mastraccio, Councilor Brink and Councilor Ayn Hanselmann heard reports from the Police Department. Chief Craig Andersen introduced Officer Nicole Root, who recently graduated from her 18-week course at the Academy in Vassalboro. She said training 16-17 hours a day was both mentally and physically difficult. Officer Root was employed for five years at the York County Jail before joining the Department last year.
Officer Gary Cole was also introduced to the Subcommittee. He has begun his training and will attend the Academy course in August. Officer Cole, a Sanford native, previously served in the US Army as a medic. Chief Andersen said, due to the pandemic, the Academy has a backlog of candidates waiting to get in.
The Police Department had a very brief period of full staffing before the retirement of Officers Chris Cyr and Matt Johns at the end of December, and Chief Andersen said two more retirements are expected by the end of February, so he will be increasing recruitment efforts once again to fill the ranks.
Emergency Shelter: Councilor Hanselmann asked if there is a plan for emergency shelter of homeless residents in extreme cold temperatures. Chief Andersen said they are allowed to stay in the lobby of the Police Station. Detective Colleen Adams generally knows where the homeless are, and checks in with them daily to offer that as an option. Deputy Chief Eric Small praised the efforts of the York County Shelter in Alfred to make sure everyone who wants shelter has it.
Deering Neighborhood Rd.: DC Small discussed the issue of speeding on Deering Neighborhood Rd. A resident had complained at a previous meeting that she did not feel safe walking due to speeding vehicles. The speed limit, which previously varied along the length of the road, has now been set at 25 mph for the entirety, although DC Small thinks that may be too low. A radar traffic study showed 85% of drivers are travelling at 45 mph. The Subcommittee members all agreed 40-45 was a more reasonable limit for the road. Mr. Buck said the road, which has narrow shoulders and no sidewalks, was not designed for pedestrian traffic. Public Works Director Matt Hill said the road is rural, not suburban and agreed that 25 is too slow, but he will look at other factors that influence speed limits, including curve radii and the sight distance from driveways, and report back in February.
Pioneer Ave. and Emery St.: Mr. Hill said the Maine Department of Transportation is now classifying the intersection of Emery St. and Pioneer Ave. as a high-crash location, due to the number and seriousness of accidents at that intersection in the past three years. He said one factor is the limited sight distances due to the mill building and other obstructions at the corners. Part of the problem is people who do not stop at the stop signs on Pioneer Ave. Chief Andersen commented that people who do not follow right-of-way conventions are also contributing to the number of accidents. MDOT is recommending consideration of changing it to a four-way stop. However Mr. Hill said starting after stopping on the hill on Emery St. could be a problem in slippery conditions. Consensus of the Subcommittee was to wait for further information from MDOT before deciding whether to recommend changing to a four-way stop.
Recycling Containers: Mayor Mastraccio, Deputy Mayor Herlihy and Councilor Bob Stackpole discussed the possibility of requiring or promoting covered containers for recycling. Councilor Stackpole is dismayed by the litter he sees everywhere, which is partly due to recyclables blowing out of uncovered containers on windy days. Mr. Buck said the ordinance could be changed to require covered containers, but after much discussion it was decided to try encouraging the use of them, rather than mandating them. Mr. Hill said containers with attached covers that would work well and are acceptable to the recyclables hauler could be identified. The City could work with local retailers to make sure they are in stock and marketed as recommended by the City.
Keep America Beautiful: The Subcommittee also recommended adding $3,500 to next year’s budget for the City to join the Keep America Beautiful program, which provides community education and tools to reduce litter.
Garbage to Gardens: Mr. Buck asked what happened with the Garbage to Gardens compost program that was proposed last spring. Mr. Hill said he sent the grant application to the wrong email address and missed the deadline, but there is another round of funding coming up later this year and he will apply again.
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