2015-01-30 / Community

In the News

Complied by Staff Writer
Duke Harrington

Committees reconfigured

The rosters of two South Portland committees have been doubled in size. At its Jan. 21 meeting the city council voted 5-2 to expand both the conservation commission and the energy and recycling committee to 14 members, by granting the seven alternate seats on each group full voting rights.

Previously, alternate members could participate in proceedings but could not vote unless called upon to fill in for an absent regular member. The committees requested the change in hopes the added voting right might induce more residents to apply for open seats, of which there are many on each group.

Mayor Linda Cohen voted against the change, largely based on the fact that it would now require seven members to create a quorum at a meeting in order to conduct business. That she noted, is equal to the full membership of most of the other volunteer committees in South Portland. Councilor Maxine Beecher also voted against the change, saying the real issue at hand is absenteeism, given that many current members of each group do not attend 75 percent of meetings, which is required as a condition of appointment.

“I truly don’t think this is going to make a difference,” she said.

“The attendance issue is a problem, but that’s another problem,” said Councilor Tom Blake. “I don’t think we should put citizens on a committee and give them separate rights on that committee.”

“It really isn’t about an attendance issue,” agreed Councilor Brad Fox. “I think we are voting to empower all members of the committee.”

“There are not two more active groups in our city where volunteers are using their brain power on behalf of the city,” said Councilor Patti Smith, noting the climate action plan and sustainability resolve, among other city policies adopted in recent years that gestated at either committee.

“I don’t know what we would do without these groups,” she said. “They have bubbled up some really fantastic ideas and I think having more people involved and being solution-driven is very positive for our city.”

The new membership rule, enabled though a change of ordinance, state that no more than four people from any one of the city’s five voting districts shall serve on either committee at the same time.

Council accepts money

The South Portland City Council voted unanimously Jan. 21 to accept $510 awarded by Cumberland County Unified Court under the Maine Asset Forfeiture Program.

Thomas Randall, of Scarborough and 21 at the time, was arrested March 1 at 12:46 a.m. on Main Street and charged with unlawful furnishing scheduled drugs. As allowed by state law, the courts awarded the cash he had on him at the time, presumed to be part of his drug proceeds, to the arresting department. As with all such awards, the money will be used by the South Portland Police Department to supplement its regular budget.

An agenda for the Jan. 21 meeting posted online stated that a handgun also was awarded to South Portland. While the police department has received such items in the past as part of similar forfeitures, City Manager Jim Gailey said that listing of a gun was a typo, probably cut and pasted from a similar agenda item in the past. The error appeared only on the online agenda and not on the actual order that was voted on by the council and no handgun was involved, he said.

Donations abound

The South Portland Public Library has received $300 in donations, included $100 given by Harriet Street resident Wade Brainerd and $200 by Cape Elizabeth resident Mary Esposito. The funds were formally accepted by the city council at its Jan. 21 meeting.

Appointments made

The South Portland City Council has chosen newly elected Councilor Brad Fox to replace former councilor Jerry Jalbert, who did not stand for re-election, as its representative on the Long Creek Watershed Management District Board of Directors. He will fill the remainder of Jalbert’s term through February 2016. The council is awaiting a recommendation from city staff on a nominee from an area nonprofit agency to fill another open seat on the Long Creek board.

At its Jan. 21 meeting, the city council also reappointed local carpenter Anton Hoecker, a resident of District 2, to the community development advisory committee.

The city has three openings on the conservation commission, along with one each on the board of assessment review, the civil service commission, and the energy and recycling committee. Interested applicants may apply on the city website, www.southportland.org.

Permits counted

According to a Jan. 15 report issues by the South Portland Planning and Development Department, the city issues 744 building permits in 2014, including for 31 new homes, representing $32.41 million in construction. That was on part with the 2013 total of $32.47 million, although permit fees realized were down from $528,820 collected in 2013 to $474,423 taken in last year.

During 2014, the city also issues 191 permits to install 1,725 plumbing fixtures, good for $21,255 in fees, less $10 from each permit sent to the state. The report did not provide a comparison to 2013. However, it did note that the $20,209 collected last year on 415 electrical wiring permits was down from the $23,437 received on 403 such permits issues in 2013.

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