2018-02-16 / Community

In the Know

DONATIONS — At its February 6 meeting the South Portland City Council accepted $700 in donations to the public library, and its Clear Skies Ordinance legal defense fund.

The $300 for the library included gifts given by Goudy Street resident Wade Brainerd ($100), Mary Esposito and David Plimpton of Cape Elizabeth ($175), and Kenneth Gaspar, also of Cape Elizabeth ($25).

Meanwhile, $400 in donations to the city’s legal defense fund came from Karen Kerrigan ($100), Ian Meng ($100), and Louise Tate ($200).

To date, the fund has taken in more than $163,000 in donations against $1.2 million in legal bills. During his presentation Feb. 6 given to accompany the annual audit numbers, Finance Director Greg L’Heureux said the upcoming city budget will likely include a request to transfer an additional $1 million from city’s $13.2 million undesignated surplus reserve to cover lawyer bills yet to come in the case.

WASTE MANAGEMENT — South Portland plans to purchase a computerized maintenance management system to keep track of sewer and road assets, at a cost of $173,520. The program will be supplied and installed by Vueworks Data Transfer Solutions of Concord, New Hampshire. The city secured one other bid from Beehive Industries of Lincoln, Nebraska, which asked for $282,955.

The program is the third part of a three-phase process begun in 2011 that saw the city first rehab its wastewater treatment plant, then begin a process of separating wastewater from stormwater overflow drains. In this third phase, the city will use the supplied software to keep track of and plan maintenance for all of its sewer and road assets. The plan is to eventually expand its use to other city departments.

“Some of the time when you see something like this, there’s a tendency to think, ‘That’s an expensive toy,’” said Councilor Maxine Beecher. “But this is going to save us some money. I truly think it is going to make the difference.”

“You can’t maintain things unless you have the tools to maintain them,” agreed Councilor Adrian Dowling.

Purchase of the program is part of the city’s 2019 capital improvement budget for the 2019 fiscal year. Half of the needed funds ($86,760) will come from the sewer user fund balance, with the other half drawn from the public works highway maintenance budget.

CRUISER BID — South Portland is buying three new Ford Interceptor SUVs tricked out to operate as police cruisers, with an expectation of having them on the road by late spring. As part of a joint bid with Cape Elizabeth, 29 dealers were solicited for bids. Just three — Casco Bay Ford in Yarmouth, Yankee Ford in South Portland and Colonial Ford in Acton, Massachusetts —submitted offers. The prices were fairly tight, ranging from $29,129 per vehicle to $29,983.

However, while the local dealer was off from the low bid by $556 on the base vehicle price, it fell behind when adding in requested options, including a ballistic door panel and cargo storage vault, among other things. In the end, Casco Bay Ford came in at the total price for all three vehicles of $95,997, besting both Yankee Ford (at $98,429) and Colonial ($99,740).

In a Jan. 31 memo to the city council, which approved the bid unanimously, Police Chief Ed Googins said once the new cruisers are rolling, he will sell the three highest mileage vehicles in his 35-car fleet, and apply any revenue realized to the final bill. Beyond that, funds will come partly from the department’s current-year $4.54 million operating budget (which included $121,000 for vehicles), and partly from its vehicle reserve account.

PLANNING PROBLEM — The South Portland City Council has transferred $24,835 from a city hall improvement fund to the planning department.

According to City Manager Scott Morelli, the planning and code enforcement offices housed in the former Hamlin School at 496 Ocean St. has had problems with its air circulation systems for a couple years. With replacement parts no longer available for the antiquated system, several rooms have limited or no heat. Worse, mold has begun to form. Several carpets need to be removed, followed by remediation cleaning and “some minor structural changes,” Morelli said.

“While we are in the process of assessing the longer-term needs of this building and whether we should remain there, we do need to take these remediation steps ASAP,” Morelli wrote in a position paper memo to the city council.

The council voted Feb. 6 to transfer the funds from a reserve account set aside in 2015 to remake the basement conference room at city hall. That project was never undertaken after an engineer pegged a cost “considerably more” that what had been set aside, Morelli said.

“There are going to be other things in the mid- and long-term that are going to be added (to work that needs to be done) to the building that are going to prompt us to have a discussion on the future of the Hamlin School,” Morelli said, suggesting that the former school building may well become a problem child for the city’s facilities manager — a new position expected to be filled, “in the next couple of months.“

NO ILLEGAL GUNS — With unanimous consent of the South Portland City Council, Mayor Linda Cohen has signed a statement of principles adding the city’s name to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition. Since its founding in 2006 by Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Menino, former mayors, respectively, of New York City and Boston, the group has grown from 15 mayors, to more than 1,000.

The “Statement of Principles” signed by Cohen calls on all coalition members to:

 “Punish to the maximum extent” those use own, use, or sell illegal firearms.

 To “target and hold accountable” dealers “knowingly” sell firearms to “straw purchasers” who act as go-betweens to those barred by law from possessing such weapons.

 To work toward extending background checks to all gun sales, including private, online, and gun show transactions.

 To oppose any federal effort to limit the ability of municipalities to access, use, and share data related to firearms.

 To work toward the development and use of new technologies designed to find and trace illegal firearms.

 Support all local, state, and federal legislation that targets illegal gun use.

The city council voted Feb. 6 to have Cohen sign the statement. To date, mayors in Portland and Saco also have signed onto the group.

– Compiled by Staff Writer Duke Harrington

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