2016-10-28 / Community

In the Know

Notes, quotes and news briefs of concern to South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, compiled by Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington.

MANAGER FINALISTS — The quest for a new city manager to lead South Portland is down to the final two candidates. In an Oct. 21 press release, interim City Manager Don Gerrish said the job would go to either James “Ty” Ross of Dalton, Georgia, or Edward Collins of South Portland. No other information was released on the finalists, except that they will be in town for second-round interviews on Nov. 2 and 3.

The public will have a chance to meet the town candidates and their spouses at an informal gathering to be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2 in the senior wing of the South Portland Community Center on Nelson Road. The following day, each candidate will meet with city department heads and school superintendent Ken Kunin, before entering final interviews with the council, which is expected to announce its choice on Monday, Nov. 7.

Ross was most recently city administrator in Dalton, Georgia, a job from which he resigned on Sept. 14. According to local newspaper The Daily Citizen, no reason was given for the departure. Ross had beat out 83 other applicants for the position in October 2009. According to the Citizen, it was his first foray into municipal service. A native of Georgia’s Whitfield County, Ross earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Georgia in 1997, a law degree from Georgia State University in 2002 and a masters in business administration from Kennesaw State University in 2008. After college he spent six years practicing business law and later served as assistant dean of the business school at Dalton State College.

While Gerrish’s press release says Collins is now a South Portland resident, his LinkedIn profile lists him as still employed in “administration, finance, (and) (human resources)” as Utah-based Civil Science, and engineering firm with offices in five states.

According to Collins’ profile, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Maine in 1987 and went on to become town manager of Lubec immediately out of college. After a year in that job Collins went on to work as community development director in Calais, executive director of the Quoddy Region Job Opportunity Zone, and town manager of Baileyville. He then moved to Utah to become business service manager at the Redevelopment Agency of West Valley City, then administrator of Lehi City Corp., a redevelopment and building authority. Collins earned a masters in public administration from the University of Utah in 1998 and joined Civil Science in 2006.

Gerrish, who’s consulting firm, Eaton Peabody, was paid $9,500 to lead the search for South Portland’s next city manager, has said 23 resumes were submitted for the position. In a September meeting with the Cape Elizabeth Town Council, where Eaton Peabody is making $8,000 to run a similar search, Gerrish gave the number of applicants as 21. At that meeting, Gerrish said he felt the reason for the relatively low number of applicants was due to a city council requirement that the new manager live in South Portland.

SCHOOL APPOINTMENT — The South Portland City Council voted unanimously Oct. 17 to appoint Hall Street resident Elise Tipton to the vacant District 5 seat on the city board of education. Tipton, a communications and marketing director for the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Portland replaces long-time school board member Tappan Fitzgerald, who resigned unexpectedly at the end of the Sept. 12 board meeting, citing personal reasons. Without enough time to call a special election in time to make the Nov. 8 ballot, it fell to the city council, as designed in the city charter, to fill the seat. Tipton will serve until November 2017, when a special election will be called to fill the final year of Fitzgerald’s term.

Tipton beat out two other applicants for the job, Red Oak Drive resident Bruce Bennett, an naturalized citizen from the African nation of Burundi, who now works an office assistant at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and Ryan Edwards, of Pennsylvania Avenue, a South Portland native and disability benefits manager for Aetna Life Insurance, whose father sat on the school board for nearly 20 years.

Although Tipton was the unanimous choice Councilor Brad Fox raised the possibility of appointing Bennett in the name of racial diversity. Fox made a similar stab at that goal in March, when he nominated Deqa Dhalac, a female black Muslim, for a spot on the city’s civil service commission, over Phillip LaRou, a white male. Both Dhalac and LaRou work for the city of Portland – she as a human service councilor and he in the fire department. However, Fox was outvoted by the full council, based on the fact that LaRou was already a commission member in good standing up for reappointment. The council invited Dhalac to apply for any other committee opening, but she declined and, in June, filed a complaint against the city with the Maine Human Rights Commission.

City officials have been tight-lipped about the complaint, which is reportedly still under investigation, having neither been dismissed or placed on the Maine Human Rights Commission agenda for action.

Meanwhile, there may be no need for a second city council appointment. The race for the District 1 seat on the school board drew no candidates. That leaves the race to the will of the people via write-in votes, and would have set up the need for a council appointment had there been no clear write-in winner, or if the person drawing the most votes declined to serve. However, last week school board chairman Richard Matthews announced that Stanford Street resident Jennifer Kirk was campaigning for the write-in vote.

A South Portland native who earned an associate degree in child development from Southern Maine Community College, Kirk logged 16 years working for the city’s Head Start program. She now works as a youth services provider at the South Portland Boys and Girls Club.

Kirk has said she decided to stage a write-in effort out of a sense of civic duty, given that no one filed to run for the position.

“I hate people thinking that nobody cares in District 1,” she said.

EARLY VOTING — Given the potentially historic presidential election, many political observers are eyeballing early returns, hoping to glean some clue of what’s to come. So, with two weeks to go until the actual, official Election Day, here is the 4-1-1 as tabulated by City Clerk Emily Scully.

So far, 3,978 people have either voted in person early, or else requested an absentee ballot. That’s a 19.1 percent increase over those who had done so to this point in 2008, and a 30.5 percent increase over 2012.

“I expect South Portland to end up somewhere between 2008’s and 2012’s total absentee turnout for this election – fulfilling between 1,500 and 2,000 more absentee requests before Nov. 3,” Scully said.

Of ballots returned thus far, 1,379 were submitted by registered Democrats, 401 by Republicans, 81 by Greens and two by Libertarians, while 557 came from registered voters not enrolled in any political party.

That would seem to give an early advantage to Democrats, and in whole numbers it does, but polling prognosticators say turnout means everything. So, what do the early returns hint at in terms of relative excitement in each camp?

At this point, two weeks out, 16.3 percent of South Portland’s 8,440 registered Democrats have voted, while 11 percent of the city’s 3,633 Republicans have cast ballots. The undecided early turnout is 8.5 percent of South Portland’s 6,562 un-enrolled voters, while 9.1 of its 887 Greens and 1.5 percent of its 130 Libertarians have voted.

Scully reminds voters that absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 general election maybe requested only until Thursday, Nov. 3.

“After that point, an absentee ballot may only be requested and issued if a voter has special extenuating circumstances,” she said.

CLEAN SOPO, PART I — The city of South Portland has partnered with Maine Standard Biofuels to launch a pilot program for select city vehicles. For the next year, the city will use a blended fuel containing up to 20 percent locally made biodiesel, commonly referred to as B20, to test the product in all weather conditions. According to the city’s sustainability coordinator, Julie Rosenbach, the use of biodiesel in its entire fleet of vehicles, should the pilot program prove to be a success.

“I know in the past people have seen problems with biofuels,” she said, “and that is why we are conducting this pilot program. I am excited to partner with MSB, a local company using a ‘waste’ product to develop a sustainable fuel, to turn this experience around.”

According to Maine Standard Biofuels president Jarmin Kaltsas, the B20 to be used in city vehicles is made from used cooking oil collected at restaurants across New England, including more than 30 in South Portland, which is then processed at the company’s refinery, located on Ingersoll Drive in Portland.

Kaltsas said cooking oil collected in South Portland alone is sufficient to nearly 60,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel per year, while Rosenbach said program should reduce CO2 emissions by more than 200 tons per year. Biodiesel, she said, can reduce carbon output from vehicles by as much as 80 percent, depending on feedstock and blend, making its use one of the key actions recommended in the city’s 2014 Climate Action Plan.

Rosenbach could not be reached for comment before deadline. An Oct. 25 press release announcing the pilot program did not cite a cost to the city for installation of biodiesel tank at the city’s public works garage on O’Neil Street, or for use of the fuel over the next year, as compared to regular diesel.

CLEAN SOPO, PART II — South Portland has recently installed what is being touted as, “one of only a few, if not the only outside water bottle filling station in the area.“

“We are pleased to be able to offer this convenience to residents through a grant program from the Portland Water District,” said Sustainability Coordinator Julie Rosenbach, adding that the hope is to reduce use of bottled water by encouraging residents to drink more tap water.

Two bottle-filling stations were created at Wainwright Field Athletic Complex and Redbank Community Center.

“From San Francisco’s crusade to eliminate single-use plastic containers with ‘tap stations’ dotting the city, to Boston’s uniquely designed units along the Greenway, water bottle filling stations are gaining popularity across the country as a way to offer the public a more convenient way to refill and refresh,” said Portland Water District spokesman Michelle Clements, in an Oct. 21 press release. Portland Water District began its program to promote the installation of water bottle filling stations in 2011, partnering with the Portland Jetport to install units in the terminal. Since then, it has 12 grants for similar units in Portland city buildings, as well as at Saint Joseph’s College and the Casco Bay Transit Terminal.

Each year, Portland Water District gives money to build two water bottle filling stations, awarding up to $5,000 for outdoor units, $2,000 for internal stand-alone units, and $500 for retrofits.

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