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Municipal Operations and Property

Council Rules: At the City Council’s Municipal Operations and Property Subcommittee meeting on July 13, the first item on the agenda regarded proposed updates to the Council’s Rules and Order of Business, also known as the Rules of Procedure. The updates are needed due to recent amendments to state law. Under the new law, any public meeting which includes three or more elected officials requires them to meet in person, but allows officials to participate remotely by telephone or video connection (e.g. via Zoom) under certain specific circumstances. This applies not only to the City Council, but to any public body established by Charter and by the Council, including the School Committee, Planning Board, and others.

These circumstances include an emergency or urgent issue that requires the entire Council or Board to meet remotely (such as a major snow storm or power failure at City Hall); or the illness, other physical condition, or temporary absence from the jurisdiction of an individual member.

There was discussion about the phrase “temporary absence” and how that might, or might not, apply to an official who was working out of town or had gone south for the winter. The word “temporary” is not defined under state law.

The law requires that the public be able to participate remotely whenever an official is allowed to do so. That is not expected to be an issue, as the City has newly-installed technology in Council Chambers, as well as the Conference Room, that will allow remote access and participation by the public at all in-person meetings. The City Council will resume meeting in person at its next meeting on July 20.

City Manager Steven Buck said the proposed update to the Rules will be tweaked a little more, with input from the City’s legal counsel, before it is presented to the full Council for adoption.

Midtown Mall: Ian Houseal, Sanford’s Director of Community Development, provided a quick update on the Midtown Mall parking lot improvements. He said he is talking with local contractor Matt Landry about some creative ways to phase the project over time, but there is no date set yet for the project to begin.

Communications Coordinator: Mr. Buck provided some background on the work that has gone into developing a new marketing/communications position for the City. He researched what other communities have done with a similar position, and found that the communications aspect of the job is predominant. He recommends a job title of Communications Coordinator, with a job description encompassing a three-pronged approach.

The first aspect of the job would be collecting information to push to the City Council to enable members to make better informed decisions; the second aspect would be communicating information to the community to increase understanding and awareness of municipal issues; and the third aspect of the job would be targeted marketing to external firms.

The Communications Coordinator would be responsible for the City’s website and social media presence, and would also create video content to be shared on social media and public access television. The Communications Coordinator would serve as the City’s official spokesperson when necessary.

Based on research of the typical pay range for a similar position, Mr. Buck is recommending a base salary of $52,367.31. The maximum yearly cost with full family insurance would be $90,494.47. The municipal budget approved last month includes $100,000 for the position. As the position is not likely to be filled until October 1, that would leave sufficient funds in the budget for setup costs for the office and initial marketing materials. There is also over $75,000 remaining in marketing funds previously allocated to the Sanford Regional Growth Council, which could be put to use.

Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy commented that the person hired must have a strong personality to deal with administrators and department heads, and who can boil down their message effectively. “We need someone who is not afraid to tell you you are overcomplicating it,” she said.

If the full Council approves the job description on July 20, the position will be immediately advertised.

Prompto Oil: The Subcommittee discussed traffic complaints about Prompto Oil on Main St., due to vehicles waiting to enter for service. Mr. Buck provided some background on communications between the City and Prompto’s Operations Manager, dating back to December of 2017. At the time, the company was planning to address the issue by staffing its third bay, thereby reducing the number of customers waiting to get in. The following year Prompto management met with staff from the Planning and Codes Departments, and discussed a plan to reverse the flow of traffic, with cars entering off of Avon St. behind  Jerry’s Market, and exiting onto Main St. Prompto representatives agreed to work on a plan to accomplish this, and submit it to the Planning Department for review, but never did. Mr. Buck said Prompto stopped communicating with the City in 2019 and nothing has been done on the issue since. He will reach out to the company to see if work toward a solution can be restarted.

Twombley Road reconstruction: The final agenda item for the day was a discussion of options for reconfiguring the part of Twombley Road between Main and Shaw Streets. In the plan for the reconstruction of that neighborhood, known as the Westside Village, that section of Twombley would have been made one way (heading away from Main St.) with parking on the south side only. However, in the final design it was determined that sight distances from the Townhouse Properties garages would be insufficient for safe exiting.

Public Works Director Matt Hill presented a few options for the Subcommittee to consider. Switching the parking to the north side of the road would create a safety problem for residents on that side of the street. Banning all parking and keeping the road two-way, as it is now, would be another option. A third option would be to retain the one-way traffic flow but without any parking.

All three Subcommittee members favored the option to keep the road two-way. Mr. Hill said he believes all homes on the street have off-street parking. Ms. Herlihy said her Townhouse tenants sometimes park on Twombley, but they don’t need to, as they have off-street parking as well. She said the only other people who regularly park at the top of Twombley are the owners of the Jeweler’s Outlet store, although they have their own parking lot.

Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio said she would also recommend no trucks be allowed on that section of roadway, as there is insufficient room for them to turn safely onto Main St.

Mr. Hill also told the Subcommittee that he has been getting easements from homeowners in the Westside Village area signed, so that the Public Works Department will be able to connect their driveways to the new roadway. He said two homeowners flat out refused to grant the easement or even discuss it. He said that means their driveways will end up not being level with the road surface, and the difference could be as much as three inches.

Councilor Jonathan Martell suggested they may not have understood the purpose of the easement. Deputy Mayor Herlihy agreed, and said the letters that were sent in advance were somewhat vague. Mayor Mastraccio suggested simplifying the message.

Land Bank Authority

Dangerous buildings: At the Land Bank Authority’s meeting this week, it was noted that progress has been made on the property at 28 Emery St., which was declared a dangerous building by the City Council in May. Sun West Mortgage, the lienholder on the property, has completed the interior clean out and the next step will be to replace the windows in the home.

Vacant commercial property: In other discussion, John Caramihalis suggested that the City find a way to put pressure on owners of vacant commercial properties to bring them back into productive use, as it is now doing with residential property owners. “It is starting to get to the point where these vacant commercial buildings are causing a blight,” he said.

Solid Waste Subcommittee

Takeout trash: The Solid Waste Subcommittee discussed the need for more outdoor trash receptacles at drive-through and takeout restaurants. See separate story.

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