2017-04-21 / Community

In the Know

BUCKLE UP — Those opposed to wearing seatbelts might want to do so anyway when driving through South Portland during the next few months.

The South Portland Police Department has applied for a $19,562 grant from the Click It or Ticket/Buckle Up No Excuses Enforcement and Education Program offered by the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety. The grant will pay for 400 patrol hours dedicated to enforcing Maine seat belt laws between May 22 and June 4.

The city council was scheduled to vote to accept the grant at its April 19 meeting.

FOOD TRUCKS — The South Portland City Council was scheduled to vote April 19 on new rules that would allow food trucks to operate in Bug Light Park, at the adjoining public boat launch and at Wainwright Recreation Complex, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. seven days per week.

The trucks would also be allowed at any other cityowned or controlled property as part of a city-sanctioned special event, although they would be banned from operating at farmers markets and could not set up within 500 feet of a restaurant. Except for special events, trucks would require a planning board site plan review, as well as a $120 city license. The same rules would apply to mobile vehicles, such as ice cream trucks, although those are exempt from the 500-foot setback. The new rules would also allow food trucks on private property, although if in place for more than three days in any calendar year, the trucks would be reviewed by the planning board as a stationary vending unit subject to site plan review.

A final vote on new food truck rules is scheduled for May 1.

PORTLAND PIER — The drive to overhaul South Portland’s Portland Street Pier was scheduled to take a step forward at the April 19 city council meeting, with councilors scheduled to vote on a $30,000 application for a Shore and Harbor Planning Grant, offered by the Maine Coastal Program of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.

The money would be used to create a master plan and economic feasibility analysis to prioritize repairs, maintenance and capital improvements, along with proposed design and expansion plans to add more fishing berths to the pier and create an incubator for the aquaculture industry.

“If the grant is awarded to and accepted by the city, an engineering professional specializing in this type of work will be procured,” City Manager Scott Morelli wrote in a memo to the city council. “The city will also procure a consultant to assist with the economic analysis. The project will end with a final presentation to city council no later than spring 2018 for acceptance of the master plan, at which time staff will seek formal approval to begin the next phase of the project for permitting and construction.”

The city would use part of a $25,000 grant given by the Greater Portland Public Development Commission, already earmarked toward the project, as the 25 percent local match required by the state grant.

DRIVE CHANGE — Significant changes are on tap for Waterman Drive in South Portland, a road designed for traffic coming off the Casco Bay Bridge back when it was still the comparatively inexpensive Million Dollar Bridge. Now over-engineered for the amount of traffic it receives today, Waterman Drive is due for what City Planner Tex Haeuser calls a “road diet.” Haeuser was at the most recent meeting of the city’s arts and historic preservation committee and, according to minutes from that session, told the group that as part of upcoming capital improvement project budgets, Waterman Drive will lose an automobile lane and a street light phase, but gain a bicycle lane.

Haeuser also said at that meeting that South Portland is submitting a grant application with Cape Elizabeth for sidewalk improvements. In Cape that would mean sidewalks in the area of the schools, while in South Portland, new sidewalks would be built on Waterman Drive, as well as near Sam DiPietro Park, at the intersection of Cottage Road and Pillsbury Street.

FOR ART’S SAKE — The arts subcommittee of South Portland’s arts and historic preservation committee held its first meeting April 3, at which it drew up a preliminary list of public art that now stands in the city and brainstormed where new arts projects might be located. The group elected to define public art as works visible from a public right-of-way, such as streets and sidewalks, regardless of whether the property stands in public or private ownership. It also decided the “art” list could include monuments that incorporate sculpture, but should exclude simple monuments, plaques and markers.

The preliminary draft list of public art in South Portland included 14 items. They are:

 The Liberty Ship Memorial in Bug Light Park  The “Art All Around Us” paintings on the Sprague oil tanks  Veterans Memorial in Mill Creek Park

 The sculpture in front of Scratch Bakery

 The Mill Stone at Mill Creek Park (although there were some questions about its current location and status)  The soldier statue/monument at Meetinghouse Hill near the Congregational Church

 The cannon previously located on the grounds of Mahoney Middle School (the group was unsure of its current location)

 The “Reeds” along the side of the Veterans Memorial Bridge  The lighthouse sculpture at Skillin Elementary School (which, the committee minutes noted, “needs TLC”)  The student art piece at Thomas Knight Park  WPA mural inside the South Portland Post Office  The mural in front of Neighborhood Resource Hub on Westbrook Street

 The painting of Jesus Christ on the front of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church (which is currently blocked from public view by a tree)

 Counting temporary art pieces, the Christmas lights display in Mill Creek Park.

Ideas for new arts projects included:

 Decorative lighting on the electric transmission towers that run through Mill Creek, possibly color coded to events and causes, such as pink for the annual running of the Tri for a Cure

 Setting up rotating shows in city hall and other public buildings

 Artistic beautification of the Route 1 bridge over the rail line at Rigby Yard

 A “trail stories” display of linked pieces along the Greenbelt trail and other pedestrian areas  Making the annual Art in the Park show a year-round concept by commissioning permanent art pieces in various city parks  Allowing artists free reign to create “found art” pieces using items left at the swap shop at the city transfer station

 Adopting a city policy, similar to the Maine Department of Education’s “One Percent for Art” program, that would require an arts component to all future city building projects

 Encouraging creation of affordable living and studio space for artists

 Creating and distributing a map of all public art pieces in South Portland  To create and install signs in each of the city’ historic neighborhood centers identifying the community, along with its history and characteristics.

However, the most immediate and pressing concern, the group decided, according to minutes prepared by Chairman Adrian Dowling, is a “need for clarity and direction from the city council, in order to gain a better understanding of what the council wants and expects from the arts and historic preservation committee, especially in light of the confusion expressed by several committee members regarding the council’s decision to combine art with historic preservation.”

Dowling said the committee is hopeful of landing its raison d’être on the agenda of a council workshop “in the near future.”

GREEN GROUSE — The South Portland Conservation Commission has passed a recommendation along to the city council saying that it’s time to update the 2001 South Portland Open Space Strategic Plan, and that this time the plan should have some teeth. In a March 20 memo, the commission said it had recently reviewed the 2001 plan with members of the South Portland Land Trust and the Open Space Inventory Committee, saying, “The creation of this inventory committee was the direct result of community displeasure after developers approached the city to develop public property – Sawyer Park on Westbrook Street and the Hamlin School.”

“It became clear during the inventory process that the lack of an up-to-date open space plan prevents effective evaluation, protection and preservation of open space,” the commission wrote.

Although the 2001 plan created an evaluation process for open spaces and included a prioritized list of properties worth protecting from development, it concentrated on private lots and lacked recommendations for how to achieve long-term preservation. It also was never formally ratified by the city council, nor was it incorporated into South Portland’s comprehensive plan.

“History shows that the 2001 plan served as a blueprint for developers and thus resulted in the loss of several valuable properties,” the commission wrote. “The city has (since) evolved into a more progressive, environmentally conscious place to live and work (and) a more modern and thorough open space plan will provide guidance to community members, employers and developers in maintaining an engaging, welcoming and beautiful city.”

The commission said the city council should create a new open space committee “containing representatives from city boards and commissions, business owners, developers, community members, the South Portland Land Trust and other parties with a stake in the process.” That group, it said, should be allowed to hire an outside consultant to guide an effort to review and update the list of prioritized private properties, create a prioritized list of public properties that need to be preserved, create an evaluation and rating process to determine the preservation viability of future properties that may become available, research methods to preserve open space and recommend the best to use in South Portland, and most of all, to add the finished product to the city’s comprehensive plan.

“The Conservation Commission . . . awaits the council’s decision and direction to move forward with this project,” it wrote.

GARAGE PLAN — The O’Neil Street Facility Re-Use Planning Committee held its first meeting March 30, and conducted a site walk of the current public works facility on April 5. The group was created by the South Portland City Council to recommend a redevelopment plan for the site once construction of the new public works complex on Highland Avenue is completed. Members of the committee include Mayor Patti Smith, planning board member Linda Boudreau, conservation commission member Barbara Dee, and comprehensive planning committee member Craig Piper, along with residents Steve Marston, Harold Spetla, Linda Thigpen and Sara Zografos.

The city has already conducted Phase I and II environmental assessments of the site, and the property has a Voluntary Response Action Program that will be recorded in the Cumberland County Registry of Deeds.

“The letter provided by (the Department of Environmental Protection) came back very positive and it is likely the site will not be restricted for redevelopment,” the committee wrote in minutes of the March 30 meeting.

“However, there will be a soil management plan,” according to minutes. “There are currently tanks on the property that will need to be removed. Most or all asbestos has been abated, but there is lead paint, and perhaps polychlorinated biphenyl – an organic chlorine compound – from fluorescent light ballasts. Decisions will need to be made concerning the buildings, whether any are suitable for re-use or if they should all be razed.”

The committee estimates it could cost as much as $150,000 to demolish the old public works garage, built in 1930.

“The city will need to decide whether it is willing to incur any costs, or whether it should negotiate a redevelopment agreement with a private developer, who would bear those costs as part of redevelopment,” the committee wrote.

The committee agreed to meet at 6:15 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month, in council chambers at city hall. The next meeting is April 27 and multiple public forums are planned for May or June to solicit public feedback on re-development ideas.

ZONING CHANGE — The South Portland City

Council voted unanimously April 3 to move six Broadway lots totaling 3.44 acres from Residential Zone A to Zone G.

The G zone allows for greater residential density and the property owners, Linda and Joel Kelley (1337 Broadway), Vinal and Jacqueline Thompson (1351 Broadway), David and Deborah Graham (1343 Broadway), Sadie Cowley (1355 Broadway), and William and Lisa Miro (1350 and 1354 Broadway), have all “expressed an interest in building multi-family developments,” according to City Manager Scott Morelli’s position paper to the council.

Currently, four of the lots have single-family homes on them, one has a duplex and one is vacant. According to City Planner Tex Haeuser, once moved to the G Zone, the sixth lot could have as many as 32 living units between them. The planning board voted unanimously on March 6 to recommend the change.

SCHOLARSHIP END — The South Portland City Council voted unanimously April 3 to terminate the Peter H. Debevoise Memorial Scholarship Trust, created in 1981 in memory of the longtime South Portland High School chemistry teacher and tennis coach.

In recent years, interest income from the trust has been minimal resulting in annual scholarships awarded to graduating seniors of as little as $140. To make the awards “more meaningful,” Debevoise’s widow and city Finance Director Greg L’Heureux asked the council for permission to begin dipping into trust principal. With the council vote, the scholarship will now award $2,000 per year to the graduating senior who “best perpetuates the values for which Peter H. Debevoise cared for and instilled in others,” until the fund is eventually depleted.

ASSET FORFEITURE — The South Portland Police Department has been awarded $1,420 by a Cumberland County Superior Court judge for its help in a 2016 drug bust.

On July 21, 2016, a search warrant was executed for an apartment on East Kidder Street in Portland as part of an ongoing drug investigation. Craig Carrigan, 47, was charged with two felonies – aggravated trafficking in scheduled drug and unlawful possession of Schedule W drugs. Carrigan was subsequently convicted and has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

During the raid police found seven ounces of cocaine, 246 oxycodone pills, cutting agents, drug packaging materials and $14,200 in cash, believed to be the proceeds of drug sales. According to Police Chief Edward Googins’s March 23 memo to the city council, “another $5,045 was seized elsewhere during the investigation,” and for its “substantial contribution to the investigation,” the courts awarded his department a cut of the forfeited assets.

According to state law, the windfall may be used for law enforcement purposes that supplement, but may not supplant, the police department’s regular operating budget. In other words, the department cannot use the money in place of funding already raised by property taxes, returning an equivalent dollar amount to taxpayers.

CONTRACT VOTE — The South Portland City Council voted unanimously April 3 to approve a new two-year contract with the city’s three public safety dispatchers, mirroring the agreement due to be voted on by the Portland City Council April 19. South Portland and Portland merged dispatching services in 2009. The dispatchers had been working without a contract and the new deal covers the period from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2018.

According to South Portland’s human resources director, Don Brewer, the contract gives the dispatchers a 2 percent pay raise retroactive to July 3, 2016, as well as another 2 percent hike effective July 2 of this year. The contract also increases the weekly cap for insurance premium rate increases by $1, to $9 for dependents and $11 for family coverage. The agreement also says the city will now provide and replace “on an as-needed basis” five polo, and two long sleeve fleece uniform shirts, and provide a $300 annual reimbursed for employee purchase of other required uniform components, including khaki pants, work shoes and belts.

– Compiled by Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington

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