2014-05-09 / Community

In the News

Police poll is online

The South Portland Police Department has launched a public opinion poll in advance of drafting a new strategic plan, following similar roadmaps created in 2004 and 2009.

According to City Manager Jim Gailey, the poll, accessible on the city website at www.south portland.org, takes about 10 minutes to complete. The purpose of the poll, said Police Chief Ed Googins, is to help the department identify, formalize and achieve its short- and long-term goals and objectives during the next five years.

“We want to gauge the public’s overall satisfaction and solicit input,” Gailey said.

Poll questions ask residents to rate their interactions with the department, identify what types of crimes are problems in their neighborhoods and weigh in on where the department should focus its attention in the future. The poll will be open through June 20.

Broadway bound

Residents can expect delays on Broadway between Cash Corner and Westbrook Street for the remainder of May, due to road construction now underway.

Crews from Shaw Brothers Construction of Gorham began grinding the road surface this week. Manhole covers will be the focus of attention next week, followed by paving the week of May 19. Also to be installed during May are a new sidewalk and a concrete “splitter island” to block left hand turns off Broadway into the Circle K gas station.

“That is our No. 1 traffic accident location citywide,” said City Manager Jim Gailey, noting that signs have not stopped the illegal turns. All work is expected to be complete by June 1.

Seating approved

At its May 5 meeting the South Portland City Council unanimously approved ordinance changes that will allow restaurants to set up outdoor seating in areas where sidewalks are at least 8 feet wide.

Only Ocean Street in Knightville and portions of Willard Square qualify to set up dining on public sidewalks. However, the area of Main Street through Thornton Heights will have sufficient sidewalk space when construction that begun there last month is completed in two years.

The citywide ordinance follows a successful pilot last summer at CIA Café, leading to the new licensing process that regulates such things as the size and height of table umbrellas, hours of operation and required liability insurance. A late amendment by Councilor Maxine Beecher also requires notification to abutting landowners, presumably to include owners of upper story condo units, whenever a new application is filed.

That seemed to satisfy most who spoke against the ordinance. However, Ocean Street resident Donna Allen did point out the ordinance, as written, does not specify that the outdoor seating is for restaurants.

“What can (businesses]) do on those tables? Are there retail possibilities?” she asked.

The council, while declaring its support for the outdoor seating as an economic driver and aesthetic amenity, did not answer Allen’s question. The new ordinance goes into effect in 20 days, in time for Memorial Day.

Retro-fun comes to city

The South Portland City Council approved a business license May 5 for Portland Arcade, a retro-arcade above the Linscott Real Estate office at 22 Cottage Road.

Councilor Melissa Linscott, who owns the building and collects the rent, recused herself from the otherwise unanimous vote. The arcade, owned by Chris Perk and David Demers, features gaming systems form the latter’s family collection, including eight coin-operated vintage video games, such as Ms. Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, as well as old-style gaming consoles, including the Atari 2600, Commodore 64 and Nintendo systems. The arcade will charge an admission fee rather than the usual quarters-per-play system. The owners say they hope to create a family friendly, chem-free atmosphere, catering to group events such as birthday parties, to fill the void left by Chuck E. Cheese.

Police grants awarded

The South Portland Police Department has received two grants that total $23,106 – although how most of that money will be spent remains up in the air.

One grant, for $3,000, comes from the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety’s “Click-It or Ticket” campaign. It will cover extra patrol hours from May 19 to June 1 to specifically target seatbelt enforcement. The larger grant, for $20,106, is South Portland’s share of a $110,008 Bureau of Justice Assistance Grant awarded jointly to the Portland and South Portland police departments and the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

The money can be put toward a wide range of uses. Police Chief Ed Googins said Justice Assistance Grant funds have been used in the past to upgrade technology or buy equipment not covered in the department’s annual budget. This year, however, Googins said he is eyeing prevention and education programs – although he first wants to get input from the public.

“Because of the amount of money, it’s hard to do a lot. It goes pretty quick,” he told the city council at its May 5 meeting. “I’m waiting for direction from the council and the public. I will be all ears as to how you or the community would like to see this money expended.”

Renovation to begin

The South Portland City Council has awarded a $521,985 contract to D&C Construction of Rockland, Massachusetts, the low bidder among six companies to submit proposals for renovations to the wastewater treatment plant at the corner of E Street and Waterman Drive. Work will include interior renovations to the first floor of the site’s operations building, including the boiler room, break room and locker room, all of which date to original construction of the site in 1977. The plant saw its last major upgrade in 1995.

“This building was built to house four people. We’re currently up to a staff of 15,” said wastewater engineer Brad Weeks.

Weeks said another first-floor addition will be presented to the city council as a future capital improvement project “coming next year to house additional staff.”

Funds to replace the boiler room and equipment, which Weeks said should save the city money over the long haul, is included in this year’s capital improvement plan budget. Remaining renovations will be paid for using $700,000 set aside for plant renovations in the 2012 capital improvement plan budget.

Charging units coming

By June, South Portland will have a charging unit for electric cars installed at the community center on Nelson Road, near the high school.

The $10,000 cost to install both a regular Level 2 charging unit and a DC Fast Charging Unit — which can boost an electric vehicle from zero to 80 percent power in about 30 minutes — comes courtesy of a grant from Central Maine Power. The DC unit itself, valued at up to $30,000, is supplied by a grant from the American Lung Association of the Northeast, using funds supplied by Nissan. The grant calls on the unit to be operational by June. According to City Manager Jim Gailey, South Portland was one of only two municipalities in Maine to get the Nissan funding.

Because Maine law does not allow resale of electricity, South Portland cannot charge car owners to plug in to the units. However, Gailey has said it might be possible for the city to install parking meters at the spot where cars will power up.

Even so, Councilor Tom Blake, noted that the cost to taxpayers per kilowatt hour is relatively low.

– By contributing writer Duke Harrington

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