Three of the City Council’s subcommittees met Tuesday, November 16, 2021. This is a brief summary of what was discussed at each.
Municipal Operations and Property
City Manager Steve Buck introduced the City’s new Communications Coordinator, Jordan Wilson.
Airport: Allison Navia, Manager of the Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport, gave a brief overview of each of the three agenda items relating to the Presidential Lane infrastructure improvements. A $250,000 loan, which was approved as part of the current budget, will pay the contractor for work that is underway right now. That section of the Airport is being developed rapidly, with new hangars and hangar improvements. The funds will come back to the City through land leases and other revenue, so there will be no impact to net taxation.
The other two agenda items are credit enhancement agreements with two of the Airport’s tenants, Label Tech and Sumner Properties. They will pay a fee to hook into the Airport’s utilities, and will be reimbursed through tax credits over time. Ms. Navia said this process provides an incentive for development that benefits the City, as the new companies bring added business and revenue to the Airport. The three Airport agenda items will be on the City Council’s agenda next week for a vote.
Sidewalk snow clearing: The Subcommittee discussed issues with downtown sidewalk snow clearing that in recent years have led to a number of complaints from residents. Some business owners take pride in keeping the area in front of their businesses clear, while others do not, and the only attention those areas get is from the City.
There was discussion about whether it would make sense to pass an ordinance requiring downtown property owners to keep their sidewalks clear. Councilor Jonathan Martell said he was totally against any sort of mandate. He noted that in the past few years the Public Works Department has had mechanical issues with its equipment, and he would like to see how things go this winter now that they have a functional fleet in place.
Mr. Buck said where to put the snow is also a problem. The City has only one snow dump, at the YMCA, and the Department of Environmental Protection has not permitted another one in town. Another problem is the shortage of contractors and seasonal workers to do the job. He said finding the correct balance of City workers and contractors is the key, but that it might require purchasing additional equipment.
Dumpsters: There was lengthy discussion on the proliferation of dumpsters on residential properties in Sanford, which is resulting in complaints by neighbors of odor and rats. Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio said people believe they can save money over buying the orange trash bags, by having the dumpsters emptied every two weeks or only once a month.
Code Enforcement Officer Jamie Cole said his department gets very few complaints in the winter, but many in the summer. It is not legal to place dumpsters in the front yard or within the setbacks, and they must be screened, but he only has the staff to inspect them when there is a complaint. While there are licensing requirements for trash haulers, there is no ordinance regarding how often the dumpsters have to be emptied.
Mr. Buck recommended a push to educate homeowners on the rules for dumpsters, with an expectation of compliance by summer 2022, then begin more aggressive enforcement of the location requirements as well as the odor issues. Mayor Mastraccio agreed that not enforcing the existing ordinances is encouraging people to have dumpsters where they are not practicable.
Property sale: The Subcommittee also went into executive session to discuss an offer on 12 Proulx Ct., which is City-owned.
Police Department: Chief Craig Andersen, Deputy Chief Eric Small and Detective Colleen Adams updated the Subcommittee on recent Police Department activities. See separate story.
Covid Update: Ian Houseal, Director of Community Development, went over the latest Covid statistics for Maine and the nation from the CDC. Numbers of cases and hospitalizations are rising in Maine, and are currently higher than the national average per 100,000 people. People aged 40-69 are the largest group being hospitalized for Covid right now. Mr. Buck said York County’s numbers are skewed because hospitals in other parts of Maine are at capacity and transporting patients down here.
The vaccination rate in the Sanford zip code for people age 18 and over is now at 94%, with the Springvale zip code at 91%. Vaccine numbers for teens remain significantly lower, and the rate is dropping rather than increasing. Mayor Mastraccio encouraged everyone to get their vaccination and booster shots. [Editor’s note: Booster shots are now available in Maine for everyone 18 and up. It is recommended to get your booster six months after a Pfizer or Modern vaccination, and two months after receiving the J&J vaccine.]
Economic Development Subcommittee
CDBG Grants: Mr. Houseal spoke about funds that are available from the Community Development Block Grant for improving building façades in downtown areas. He believes that if Sanford applies for the $100,000 grant, it will likely be approved. However, each business can only be awarded $25,000, and the grants come with a mountain of federal paperwork which might be an administrative burden. The grants can pay for things like window replacements and signage that is attached to a building.
Planning Director Beth Della Valle said it was important to have a vision for what the City is trying to achieve with these façade improvements, and to plan ahead to hit the ground running once the monies are received. Councilor Ayn Hanselmann suggested using the funds to create more of a cohesive look among downtown businesses, with consistent signage and design details. Mayor Mastraccio and Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy agreed that the City should go ahead and apply for the grant, while simultaneously working on the vision for what it would accomplish.
Midtown Mall parking: See separate story.
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