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Four City Council Subcommittees met on Tuesday, February 23. This is a brief summary of some of the items discussed at each.

Municipal Operations and Property

Public Works Director Matt Hill gave an update on the department’s Fleet Management and Vehicle Replacement Programs. He said that the department has been hampered in sidewalk snow removal this winter because of mechanical issues with equipment. The MV sidewalk tractor, a 2020 model, is out of service more than in service, and he is considering pursuing a claim under Maine’s lemon law. Two other sidewalk vehicles are 2005 models. He would like to use 2022 funds to purchase three new vehicles that are all the same make and model, with interchangeable parts and attachments, to alleviate the snow removal problems. He said the department is prioritizing snow removal and sidewalks for the next two years. City Counselor Jonathan Martell said he has been hearing complaints from residents about the sidewalks, and encouraged the lemon law claim.

Mr. Hill also discussed the purchase of a new vacuum street sweeper, which has been planned for some time. It could not be purchased until now because Sanford’s streets were not in good enough condition – the sweeper tore the pavement up. Now that many of the city’s streets are in better condition, the time is right. The Department of Environmental Protection is paying most of the cost. The sweeper will remove phosphorous, a byproduct of vehicle exhaust that adheres to the roadway and gets flushed into waterways by storm runoff, polluting lakes and streams and killing fish.

Dot Morin of York County Community Action Corporation told the Subcommittee that YCCAC has received grant money for three bus shelters to be placed in Sanford. One will be at the transit stop at Nasson Health Care. YCCAC is proposing a partnership with the city, under which the city would install and maintain the shelters and be able to place the other two where they would be best used. City Manager Steven Buck will work with Ms. Morin to come up with potential locations and report back to the Subcommittee.

Public Safety

Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson provided the Subcommittee members with an update of the Covid situation in the school district, and the department’s work toward getting students back in school four days a week. The response to the survey indicates that a large majority of parents prefer kids in school four days a week as opposed to two days. He said that busing and lunch time are some of the challenges that have to be worked out, but that staffing is the biggest issue. “We’re trying to put this puzzle together,” he said.

Matt Hill and Kate Bangert of the Department of Public Works talked about the Amazing Race that the YMCA plans to hold during April school vacation. The DPW is involved to promote pedestrian safety. The City Council will get a presentation on it at their March 2 meeting.

Officer Eric Small of the Sanford Police Department gave an update on his outreach with the city’s homeless population. He said he is proactively contacting those people who routinely live outdoors in the summer, and encouraging them to make other arrangements, in an attempt to prevent that from happening this year. He also talked about his work with John Cross, the substance use disorder counselor for York County, whose position is funded through Maine’s OPTIONS program (Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach, Naloxone and Safety). Officer Small told the Subcommittee that Sanford’s homeless issues are directly related to substance use and mental illness.

City Manager Steven Buck gave an update on Covid-19 statistics and noted they have improved significantly. He said the high volume vaccine center in the former Marshall’s store in South Sanford has had its opening pushed back to next week.

Police Chief Tom Connolly and Deputy Chief Craig Andersen spoke about the Sanford Police Department’s involvement with the new vaccine center. They will provide security and assistance with traffic flow. Deputy Chief Andersen said the center will be open Wednesday through Monday (closed Tuesdays) from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Diane Gerry of Sanford Housing Authority had to leave the meeting early, but she left word that SHA will be having a vaccine clinic for residents of Sunset Towers, Village View and the Maples, who are age 70+, this week. Northern Lights, who does the flu clinics for SHA, will be providing the shots.

Zoning

There was a lengthy discussion about a solar power facility proposed to be built on land owned by Townhouse Properties, which has frontage on Hanson Ridge Road and Angola Street. The land is currently zoned Residential Development, but according to Planning Director Beth DellaValle, there are serious environmental constraints which would make any residential development extremely challenging. Possible solutions were discussed. While the Planning Board has considered this property in the past and chose not to make any zoning adjustments, it was noted that two of the members who were in opposition are no longer on the board. There was consensus among the Subcommittee members to send it back to the Planning Board for another try. Councilor Maura Herlihy, whose family owns Townhouse Properties, was not present for the discussion.

Solid Waste

Most of the meeting was devoted to discussion of the quality of the Pay As You Throw (PAYT) trash bags. Courtney Forrester from WasteZero, the company that produces the bags, was on hand to answer questions. She explained that the bags are made of recycled plastics in Hemingway, South Carolina. They are shipped to a warehouse in Agawam, Massachusetts, from which they are distributed to stores in New England.

Ms. Forrester told the Subcommittee a Covid outbreak at the Agawam warehouse last year caused the bags to be unavailable for a short period of time. WasteZero began offering bags by mail directly to consumers at that point, but did not publicize the fact since they are not really set up for retail sales and shipping. This service is still available to those who are housebound. Information on how to order can be obtained from Sanford’s Department of Public Works.

Counselor John Tuttle said he often hears complaints from residents about the poor quality of the bags. “They have to address these issues if they want to retain our business,” he said. DPW Director Matt Hill said anyone with defective bags can bring them to the DPW’s office for a replacement.

Counselor Maura Herlihy said many of the problems are with the drawstrings. Ms. Forrester said the drawstrings are not meant to be handles, and can’t necessarily hold the weight of a full bag.

A full presentation on the PAYT bags is scheduled for the March 16 City Council meeting.

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