2015-05-22 / Community

In the News

The new logo set to adorn South Portland’s fleet of electric vehicles, designed by South Portland High School senior Jasper Erickson. (Courtesy image) The new logo set to adorn South Portland’s fleet of electric vehicles, designed by South Portland High School senior Jasper Erickson. (Courtesy image) City official applies for job next door

A source on the South Portland City Council has let slip that Assistant City Manager Jon Jennings is one of three finalists for the top city job across the Fore River, in Portland.

Jennings did not return a request for comment before deadline. Portland’s director of communications, Jessica Grondin, said Tuesday that three finalists were interviewed for the city manager’s position last week. Although Grondin said two of the prospective candidates are Maine residents, she declined to divulge any names.

“We should have an update soon, possibly even this week as to what the next steps are in the process,” she said.

A former assistant coach and scouting coordinator for the Boston Celtics, Jennings later served as Massachusetts state director for Sen. John Kerry and held several positions in the U.S. Department of Justice and in the White House, served as liaison to multiple cabinet agencies and the office of then- First Lady Hilary Clinton. In 2004, Jennings lost a race for Congress, running as a Democrat in Indiana’s 8th District. In 2007, Jennings brought professional basketball back to Maine as part owner of the Maine Red Claws. He later was a principal partner in Portland’s Thompson’s Point development. He has been assistant city manager in South Portland, with a focus on economic development, since February 2013.

New logo to adorn SoPo electric vehicles

South Portland’s fleet of electric cars will soon be adorned

with a city logo all their own. At the Monday, May 18 city council meeting, City Manager Jim Gailey said he has been working over the “past couple of months” with the advanced art class at South Portland High School to come up with a logo for the fleet. Last fall, the city council voted unanimously to spend $23,000 on three-year leases for two Nissan Leaf electric vehicles. As part of the climate action plan recently adopted by the council, the city’s capital improvement budget for fiscal year 2016 allocated $33,000 for the purchase of a third all-electric Leaf. Gailey has said the new car would be covered by more than $25,000 in grant

money from the Federal Transit Administration, as well as $6,600 from the city’s undesignated fund balance. It is intended to replace a pickup truck now used by the public works department, and “will save the city in operating costs long term,” he has said. A fourth Leaf purchase is in the budget, Gailey said, and should be on hand by Thanksgiving. South Portland’s goal is to convert all of its non-emergency vehicles to hybrid or all-electric operation in coming years. Gailey said the winning logo for the cars was designed by South Portland High School senior Jasper Erickson. It has not been decided whether that logo will go on the door or the hood of the electric cars, Gailey said.

Farmers market to get sign after years

After five years of trying, the South Portland Farmers Market may get a sign on Broadway.

At its May 18 meeting, the city council voted unanimously to issue a permit for a 4-foot by 8-foot sign pointing to the market’s presence in the city hall parking lot from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. The sign, due to be placed on the Mahoney Middle School lot at the corner of Broadway and Ocean Street, would stay up through Oct. 1, according to the permit. However, City Manager Jim Gailey said that detail remains to be worked out with the school board, which already has granted permission to use the site. The sign will go up on a board previously used by the South Portland Music Boosters, which also has given its blessing.

“You guys let that (Music Booster) sign stay up for four months, so I thought we’d use the sign that was already there. Why recreate the wheel?” market manager Ciatlin Jordan asked the council.

That comment was the only reference to prior controversy surrounding the sign request. In 2011, during the market’s inaugural season in Thomas Knight Park, Jordan had asked for a similarly sized sign to be placed in Ge Erskine Park on Broadway. Business had been slow, given its outof the-way location, she said, and a sign was needed to advise commuters that the market existed. That request fractured the city council, with some saying allowing such a sign would be unfair to traditional grocery stores in the Mill Creek and Knightville neighborhoods. Debate eventually led to a compromise, which included moving the market to Hinckley Drive, next to Mill Creek Park, deemed a more visible spot. However, the need to close off the street led to new complaints, while Jordan continued to stump for a sign. Last year, the market adopted new weekend hours and moved to city hall parking lot, where it continues to receive high praise, but limited traffic.

“I was there yesterday and there were very few people there, so I think they need a sign,” said Councilor Brad Fox.

City signs new lease for Resource Hub

The South Portland City Council has agreed to a new five-year lease for its Redbank Neighborhood Resource Hub at 586 Westbrook St., which includes a raise in rent from $1 per year to $300 per month.

That cost is down from the $500 per month originally requested by property owner Impala LLC, and a small price to pay, city councilors said, given the positive impact the hub has had.

“That ($500) was just not doable for the group (using the hub), which is a lot of nonprofits,” said City Manager Jim Gailey. “There’s a lot of good intentions there, but not a lot of money.”

“Having visited this resource center, I think what you see there is truly connections being made, it’s a community connecting with each other,” said Councilor Maxine Beecher. “It’s upbeat. It’s a wonderful addition to the city. I call it the city’s outreach and I hope the rest of the council will agree with me that this amount of money is worth supporting a neighborhood that has been really disjointed for a number of years.”

“The neighborhood is on the move there and this is one of the reasons why,” agreed Councilor Brad Fox, who represented that section of the city.

The hub was born out of a 2008 working committee called to “empower” the Redbank neighborhood.

“Over the years the neighborhood had lost its voice and identity within the community largely due to the transient nature of rental housing,” Gailey said. “It had seen growth over the years and the levels of municipal services being used had increased and all believed it was time to begin to work with the neighborhood and establish a single voice through the formation of a neighborhood association.”

That association was formed only recently, but in the meantime the hub was established, modeled after similar efforts in Portland’s Munjoy Hill, Bayside and Parkside neighborhoods, to serve low- to moderateincome families.

After signing the first lease for the Westbrook Street site in 2009, the city placed a trailer on the property to help provide area residents with access to information and support systems, staffing it with money from Community Development Block Grants. Services run out of the hub have included a summer breakfast program, transportation to the South Portland Boys and Girls Club for more than 125 youngsters, a Neighborhood Connection Night that serves 1,200 meals 11 times per year, access for more than 200 residents to a weekly farmers market, a weekly Bread Bank that provides bread for more than 200 residents, weekly English classes and daily referrals for people in crisis.

“Looking at how the neighborhood has come together over there, I believe the resource hub has had a positive impact,” Gailey said.

The cost of the new $3,600 annual lease will be shared by the city, the school department and a nonprofit, Community Partnerships for Protecting Children.

– Compiled by Staff Writer Duke Harrington.

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