Freeport panel begins work on new, revised policies

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FREEPORT — Ordinance Committee members are reviewing amendments to a proposed Freedom of Access Act policy, the fireworks ordinance, conflict of interest and code of ethics policies, and railroad “quiet zones.”

Some of the polices will be created and some need to be updated or revised, including a pest management policy, sidewalk maintenance ordinance, Hunter Road fields and trails management plan and fee structure, and a towing ordinance.

The committee members are Town Council Chairman Jim Cassida and Councilors Sara Gideon and Kate Arno. They met Thursday, Jan. 12, to map out a plan for the next several months.

As the staff representative, Town Planner Donna Larson presented background information, current town policies and examples of other town policies to assist the committee. She will be collecting additional information and presenting it to the committee at its next meeting.

The committee received the draft Freedom of Access Act policy and will review and discuss the language at the next meeting. Cassida said the draft policy was created last year as a compilation of various municipal Freedom of Information policies and state guidelines.

He said the town attorney reviewed the policy language and determined it was consistent with the state law. Falmouth is currently using a similar policy, Cassida said.

Town Manager Dale Olmstead said not every request for information has to be handled by the FOAA policy. The draft policy states the policy does not apply to routine requests at the town office for copies of licenses, deeds and bills.

“If someone comes in and makes a request that will take Town Hall staff hours or  days to produce, that’s when we will use this policy,” Olmstead said. “If someone wants a copy of council meetings, we just give it to them.”

While the committee reviews the draft policy, Larson said she will contact other communities using similar policies and will research their fee structures in accordance with state law. 

Committee members will also explore creating a policy to address conflict of interest and code of ethics guidelines. Larson was asked to find references to conflict of interest in the Town Charter and other town policies in an effort to consolidate them into a single comprehensive policy. The committee will discuss her findings at its next meeting.

In other business, Gideon said she would like to adopt a safe and environmentally friendly pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer policy for municipal properties. Gideon said in anticipation of the opening of the Hunter Road fields next spring, she would like Freeport to make the policy a priority. In time, she said she would like the policy to include Regional School Unit 5 properties.

Larson will look at the safe pest management plans in other communities, gather information from experts and identify costs of alternative pesticide and fertilizer use. With that information, the committee can begin to move forward on creating a town specific policy.

In addition to the proposed field pesticide policy, the committee discussed how a fields advisory committee could best manage the rules, procedures, use and maintenance plans associated with the Hunter Road property. The committee will invite representatives from the RSU 5 Board of Trustees and the field advisory committee to explore how to proceed.

In anticipation of the Amtrak Downeaster train service beginning in less than a year, the Town Council referred the “quiet zone” discussion to the Ordinance Committee.

The committee agreed to gather as much information as possible before weighing the merits of implementing quiet zones in town. In the downtown area, the trains will cross West Street, Bow Street, School Street and East Street and will be required to sound whistles at these crossings. There are also crossings at Hunter and Webster roads.

Although Tec Associates, a civil engineering firm in South Portland, provided a quote for service to work on the quiet zone application, Larson said she will explore other contractors and talk to Cumberland and Falmouth, communities that employed Tec Associates on their applications in the past. She will explore the cost of hiring consultants, outline the scope of work needed, and determine the process the ordinance committee should follow.

Finally, the committee reviewed the town’s fireworks policy.

In light of recent changes to the state law, the Town Council voted to prohibit the sale and display of fireworks. Although the town has had a policy prohibiting the sale and display of fireworks in place since 1976, the council wanted the ordinance committee to explore the policy.

Committee members said they have not heard from residents who support the sale and use of fireworks in town. They will recommend that the council keep the current fireworks ban in place.

The next committee meeting is not yet scheduled, but Cassida said it is expected to meet within three weeks. Public comment is welcome and Cassida said he encourages residents to contact him via email at jcassida@freeportmaine.com or by calling 869-5013.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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