2017-02-17 / Community

In the News

A compendium of notes, quotes and news bytes relevant to residents of South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, compiled by staff writer Wm. Duke Harrington.

SNOWPOCALYPSE — As might be expected, the heavy snows of this past week have played havoc with public meeting schedules. Monday’s storm caused the postponement of that night’s South Portland City Council to Wednesday. Then, on Tuesday evening, the forecast for the following night was bed enough to trigger a second preemptive cancellation.

A workshop to craft a policy governing the retail sale of marijuana, as well as review of the city council’s standing rules and upcoming workshop agenda items, all originally moved from Feb. 13 to Feb. 15, will now be taken up on Wednesday, March 8, according to City Clerk Emily Scully. Postponed workshops on rules for food trucks and a series of proposed renter protection policies, will now go under the gavel on Monday, March 13, Scully said. For the March 13 meeting, the council will convene at the Red Bank Community Center. All other meetings will be in council chambers at city hall.

TECH GRANT — A South Portland company is among five given a total of $24,350 in “Tech Start Grants” for February by the Maine Technology Institute. Delta Dewatering LLC was awarded $5,000 – contingent on a $7,300 match – to help it file for patents on the technology it uses to separate liquid and solid slurries, such as from underwater dredging. Founded in 2016, the company is located at 50 Market Street.

BIG OIL MONEY — With its transfer Feb. 6 of $500,000 from South Portland’s undesignated fund balance, the city council has now appropriated $1.5 million to defense of its Clear Skies Ordinance, which bans the flow of “tar sands” oil through city limits.

According to city Finance Director Greg L’Heureux, the city spent $859,569 though the end of 2016 on the defense in fees to its attorney, Sally Daggett of Portland firm Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry, and to Bostonbased Foley Hoag, a firm with environmental expertise hired by the city to aid Daggett in the defense. However, L’Heureux said he has additional invoices in hand to put the total spent so far at $1,009,367.

According to Mayor Patti Smith, attorneys for the city and Portland Pipe Line Corp., which has sued on the grounds the ordinance interferes with interstate commerce, filed on Nov. 17 for a summary judgment by U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr. Both then filed on Dec. 20 to block the other side’s request to avoid trial by having Woodcock issue a ruling, and responded to the other side’s objection on Jan. 13. Woodcock also recently ruled on Jan. 9 he would allow for the filing of amicus briefs from several industry and environmental players on both sides of the case. Although legal review of the added arguments has added to the cost of the case, Smith said it may lower the bill over the long term if the added facts help to prevent an eventual appeal, dragging the case out even further. To date, local residents have donated $121,680 to help defray the city’s legal bill, although, by talking money out of the city’s surplus funds, the bill has not yet hit taxpayers.

“We expect an oral argument to be scheduled in the coming months and a written decision to be issued shortly thereafter,” Smith said. “This may or may not resolve the entire case, short circuiting the need for a trial, or it may simply narrow issues for trial.”

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