2015-03-27 / Community

In the News

New TIF approved

The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development has approved a tax increment financing (TIF) district for Cape Elizabeth, the first in the town’s history.

The new Town Center TIF district will set aside increases in tax revenue from properties surrounding the downtown area, where Scott Dyer Road and Shore Road meet Route 77, for the next 20 years. That money will be used to fund sidewalk construction and sewer improvements in the district during that time.

The current assessed value for the 144-acre town center district, which comprises 1 percent of Cape Elizabeth’s land area, is $11.7 million.

According to a September 2014 presentation by Town Manager Michael McGovern, the TIF should generate $67,200 per year, based on 2015 tax rates. Without a TIF district, McGovern said at the time, 30 to 70 percent of that new value would be lost to county taxes, or a resulting decrease in state revenue sharing.

Construction of sidewalks and related drainage improvements was pegged last year at $1.7 million.

According to McGovern, although TIF revenue will fall far short of the full construction cost, the money can be leveraged as a cash match when applying for grant funding. It can also be combined with other funding sources, he said.

The Town Council approved the application for the TIF district as one of the recommendations of a new Town Center Plan approved last October.

“Sidewalks in the town center have been on the town’s to-do list since the first Town Center Plan was adopted in 1993,” Town Council Chairman Kathy Ray said. “Sidewalks are often requested by town residents and the town council has to balance needs with minimal increases in taxes. The TIF creates a way forward to meet resident needs without putting more pressure on property taxes.”

Cape calls for comments

Cape Elizabeth is asking residents to pitch in when it comes to brainstorming how the town should deal with throwing things out. The town’s newly formed Solid Waste and Recycling Long Range Planning Committee will hold a public input session from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, April 9 at town hall.

The five-member committee, chaired by Town Councilor Jessica Sullivan, was appointed late last year following a death at the municipal transfer station. It has been tasked with drafting a set of solid waste and recycling options for the town. Other committee members include William Brownell, a retired judge and former member of the Fort Williams Advisory Committee, Jamie Garvin, representing the town’s standing recycling committee, former selectman Anne Swift-Kayatta, and Charles Wilson, a retired Hannaford executive and former Cape fire chief, who led the last review of transfer station operations in 2003.

While some recent changes already have been implemented in the wake of the resident’s death — vehicles are no longer allowed to back up directly to “the hopper” where waste is deposited, for example – the committee’s charge is to do a bottom-up rethink of site operations. Recommendations are due in town council hands by June 30.

Despite the experience on the committee, members are not relying on their own opinions about what should happen.

“What do you like about our transfer station?” members asked residents in soliciting attendance at the April 9 meeting. “What would you change? Are the recycling containers convenient? Should we keep the ‘swap shop?’ Do you want curbside pickup? How about composting opportunities?”

All options, the committee said, are up for discussion.

Rescue fees on the rise

Cape Elizabeth will raise its rates for emergency rescue services effective March 30.

Charges for an ambulance ride supplying basic life support will go up 50 percent, from $400 to $600. If that ride requires advanced life support that service will now cost a flat fee of $900, an increase of 50-80 percent from previous rates, which ranged from $500 to $600, depending on the level of service required.

The town council voted to approve the new fees at its March 9 meeting, noting that it was the first rate hike since 2009.

The new rates will include the costs of IV drugs, oxygen, cardiac monitoring and other services now billed separately.

“Currently we bill for the transport, mileage and for the services provided during the transport,” Fire Chief Peter Gleeson wrote in his memo to the council requesting the new fees. “The flat rate would make it easier to project revenue. Under our current billing method we would have to review each call to see what services we provided.”

Mileage will still be assessed, however, with the rate due to increase from 10 to 14 cents per mile.

Gleeson said he expects the new rates to net $468,000 next year, given the usual 75 percent collection rate. That will mean $350,000 in revenue, which, Gleeson said, “will enable us to break even.”

Gleeson said he hopes to increase the number of per-diem staff available to answer calls during the day. At present, the rescue department relies on six people to handle those calls.

“We would like to increase coverage to make sure we have an advanced life support service provider on for 16 hours a day,” Gleeson told the council.

Cape OKs the posting of political signs

Post ‘em if you got ‘em. That’s the new rule in Cape Elizabeth, where the town council voted unanimously March 9 to allow political signs to be posted along town roads.

Previously, Cape’s sign ordinance banned political campaign signs from traffic islands, the pavement of public roads and all town-owned property. The amendment removes those restrictions, although it still bars political signs from going up any sooner than six weeks before an election. All signs must come down within one week of the election.

The change was made following a Sept. 25 opinion given by attorney John Wall, of Portland firm Monaghan Leahy, in response to an enquiry from Town Clerk Debra Lane.

Wall wrote back that the ban on political signs would likely not hold up if challenged in court because it unfairly limited the constitutional guarantee of free speech by banning certain signs based on their content. The only solution apart from allowing political signs, Wall wrote, would have been to ban all signs, including those advertising local businesses.

Cape sees new school calendar approved

For parents who remember when school did not start until Labor Day each year, the new school calendar in Cape Elizabeth will look familiar. At its March 10 meeting, the school board voted to change the first day of classes for the 2015-2016 school year from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8. Grades 10-12 will start at 10:55 on that day, while grades one-nine will start at the usual times. Kindergarteners will report for their first day on Sept. 11. Assuming five cancellations for snow during the winter months, the school year will end on June 24, 2016. All vacation and early release days will remain the same, although the later start will shift the beginning and end of academic quarters and semesters.

Superintendent Meredith Nadeau said the change will better align Cape’s calendar with that of the Portland Arts and Technology High School, which some local students attend. One of the other schools that sends students to PATHS cannot start before Labor Day due to contractual obligations, she said, and state law says school district calendars cannot differ from their related technical schools by more than five instructional days.

– Compiled by Staff Writer Duke Harrington

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