The City Council’s Subcommittees met on Tuesday, September 14. This is a brief overview of some of the items discussed.
Municipal Operations and Property
Trails Grant: The Trails Committee and Mousam Way Land Trust are requesting City Council approval for a grant submission to the federal government’s Recreational Trails Program. Lee Burnett made a short presentation describing how the grant funds would allow the creation of two connecting trails along sewer trunk lines near Sanford High School. The two new sections (pictured in red above) would connect to Alumni Drive and the Mousam Way Bike Path, and create a 1.7 mile loop that the SHS cross country team could use for training. The surface of smooth crushed gravel will be Universal Access, meaning it is suitable for wheelchairs and strollers. Motorized vehicles will not be allowed. The matching funds of $8,000 would be provided by the Trails Committee’s Capital Improvements Plan and MWLT. Mr. Burnett said the Trails Committee is hoping to eventually extend the trail to Route 4.
Midtown Mall Stairs: Ian Houseal, Sanford’s Community Development Director, spoke about an issue with the lights meant to illuminate the stairs at the Midtown Mall. He was unsure where the power comes from for the lights as he cannot find a record of a maintenance agreement with the Mall owner. Acting Parks Director Brian Desrochers said the electrical panel that controls them is inside the Mall building, and Ben Meggs, the owner, has turned the circuit breaker off and is unwilling to turn it back on. Apparently, no written agreement was ever made. After some discussion, there was consensus to have a separate electric meter installed that would be billed directly to the City.
Use of Council Chambers: The use of Council Chambers for in-person absentee voting, School Committee meetings and Candidates Night was discussed. City Clerk Sue Cote said there would be no conflict, as voting will be done by 4:30 in the afternoon, and the other uses are in the evening. She will make sure the voting booths are pushed up against the wall and out of the way. Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy is organizing Candidates Night, which will take place October 7. There will be no audience, just the candidates with moderators Shawn Sullivan and Tammy Wells. It will be shown on cable, livestreamed and recorded.
Atlantic Broadband: Council members have reported receiving complaints from residents that Atlantic Broadband is no longer offering basic cable TV as a standalone service. City Manager Steve Buck said he investigated by posing as a potential new customer inquiring about basic cable, and was told it could only be purchased in a bundle with internet service. He sent a memo to the City’s legal counsel, who responded that requiring customers to purchase internet in order to get cable appears to be a violation of federal law and of Atlantic Broadband’s franchise agreement with the City of Sanford. Mr. Buck has contacted the company’s Director of Government Affairs multiple times, and has been told that the department’s attorney is on vacation and will get back to him. Mr. Buck recommended giving the company until next week to respond before expending any money on legal services to address the issue, and all agreed.
Epidemic and Pandemic Policy: Mr. Buck went over changes to the City’s epidemic and pandemic policy, which were recommended by legal counsel to bring the policy into line with current US CDC guidelines. One of the changes states that City employees must self-isolate and notify their supervisor if they have been exposed to the virus, have received a positive test or are experiencing symptoms, and details the steps before they can return to work. A lengthy new section is devoted to on-the-job exposure to Covid. Another change would allow employees to use unpaid leave rather than accrued sick or vacation time. The changes to the policy will be forwarded to the City Council at its next meeting.
Overnight Parking Ordinance: A proposed ordinance prohibiting certain commercial and recreational vehicles from parking overnight on City streets was discussed. Specific complaints to the Police Department about this issue were analyzed. Subcommittee members felt the most important issue was damage to roads caused by overweight vehicles, and an ordinance should address that specifically, rather than the issue of City streets being used for commercial or recreational vehicle storage. They directed Mr. Houseal to rewrite the proposed ordinance before they discuss it any further.
Crossing Guards: Stacy Howes, the City’s Human Resources Director, spoke to the Subcommittee about the difficulty in hiring crossing guards. At the beginning of the school year, the City had five spots where crossing guards were needed and only two full-time (10 hours per week) employees to cover them, plus a couple of reserve people. She and Assistant Police Chief Tim Strout made the decision to not cover the position at St. Thomas School, because the School requires their crossing guards to do community service, which makes it even harder to hire someone for the position. The school has begun using volunteers trained by the Police Department to make sure their students cross safely. Since then, Ms. Howe said they have increased the pay to $20 per hour and have hired one person, and received three more applications. They hope to be able to go back to covering St. Thomas with City employees within the next two weeks.
Engine noise complaints: Councilor Ayn Hanselmann reported that she has received complaints from a homeowner on Lebanon Rd. of hearing large trucks’ engine brakes 30-40 times per day, and wondering if there is any way to reduce that with either enforcement or signage. Mr. Buck, who has experience driving trucks, said engine brakes are a safety feature, so can’t be specifically prohibited. He said a better alternative would be to enforce the City’s noise ordinance, as many noise issues are caused by truckers modifying their exhaust systems to get increased performance. Police Chief Craig Andersen said the Department is currently shorthanded, but when they have sufficient staffing for more traffic enforcement they will address it.
Census Data: Mr. Houseal presented some updated maps and information from the 2010 census. Some of the census blocks, which are areas that are counted as a single unit, have been updated to reflect actual neighborhoods. For example, parts of the East Side were previously in three separate census blocks, but now they have been combined into one block that represents the most densely populated area of the neighborhood. One figure from the census that he said particularly stood out, is that 25.4% of the East Side block is under 18 years of age. The closest block that has a larger percentage of children is an area of Lewiston. Sanford’s population is now officially at 21,982.
Lenox School Rezoning: The Subcommittee discussed the proposed rezoning of the Lenox School Property, site of the former Nasson dormitories. The first reading of the proposed zone change from single family residential to urban was held at the last City Council meeting. As there is concern about how to limit commercial development if the zoning is changed to urban, it was suggested that a contract zone might be a better way to go, but that requires there to be a signed contract with a buyer, and all the developers who have expressed interest in the property want to see the zoning changed before signing a contract. Deed restrictions were also discussed, but there is concern that a future owner might be able to undo them. The Subcommittee decided to table the discussion until they can get more information, which means the second reading of the proposed zoning change is on hold for now.
Lagooning: The proposed moratorium on lagooning and creation of ponds, which had a first reading at last week’s City Council meeting, was discussed. Planning Director Beth Della Valle said the City’s attorney recommended a small amendment to define lagooning as digging below the high-water table for the purpose of mineral extraction uses. This is in response to a complaint from an attorney for two Sanford gravel pit operators who said that the term was not sufficiently well-defined. It is expected the moratorium will have a second reading and be voted on at the next Council meeting on September 21.
WasteZero Surcharge: The Subcommittee heard that WasteZero, the company that manufactures the orange PAYT trash bags, will be imposing another cost increase due to the “prolonged and significant” increase in the price of resin that the bags are made from. This will result in a net loss of $10,913.88 in revenue for the City, as the retail price of the bags cannot be raised to cover it.
Rushton St. Landfill: The project to increase venting at the landfill was put out to bid, but only one bid was received, from EPI, in the amount of $24,302.60. It was noted that it is now doubtful that the solar project which was planned for that site will actually happen, but the City still needs to get the work done per the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The Public Works Department has reached out to Maine DEP to see if there are any funds or grants available to help pay for the work.
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