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South Portland council ready for a committee on committees

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South Portland council ready for a committee on committees

SOUTH PORTLAND — A land swap, an endowment fund for maintaining municipal properties and landmarks, and attracting residents to city committees filled the bill at a two-hour council workshop Monday night.

Councilors, with Patti Smith absent, agreed to form a panel including School Board members, city staff and municipal committee members to address methods of attracting new committee members and effectively communicating committee activities.

While Councilor Melissa Linscott joked about "a committee to talk about committees," she is likely to be one of the councilors working on the tasks outlined by Mayor Tom Blake and City Clerk Sue Mooney.

Mooney surveyed committee members and compiled 17 pages of responses, including the need to attract younger residents to committees on Energy and Recycling, Conservation and the Planning Board, by increased use of social media.

“People don't even know they exist, let alone there is a vacancy on them,” Councilor Linda Cohen said.

Mooney said a redesigned city website is expected to be online by mid-spring, with improvements that will help residents become informed more easily.

Blake said the review has been needed for years, and was something he tried to address with a 10-point plan in his first council term.

"The problem was is it was a 10-point plan," Blake conceded.

While Councilor Jerry Jalbert suggested the Civil Service Commission may be outdated because the city has a Human Resources Department for personnel issues, Cohen, who served on the commission before winning her council seat in November, said it has a very clear purpose.

It is needed for appeals “by employees looking for fairness and equity,” she said.

Councilors will also move forward on the basics of creating an endowment fund for upkeep of city properties and landmarks. Gailey presented a rough draft of an ordinance that would appoint a committee to oversee private donations to the fund.

Blake said the city lacks the public funds needed to pay for all required maintenance and upkeep. He noted it might be decades before an endowment reaches a level to effectively achieve its purpose, especially as Jalbert noted the goal of fund management is to spend less than an annual rate of return.

Councilors will continue with their own research on endowment funds before more workshop discussions.

At the Feb. 20 council meeting, councilors will vote on a swap of parcels of about 600 square feet. Gailey and Planning Director Tex Haeuser said two city-owned parcels will be swapped for parcel of equal size now owned by Hornby Zeller Properties adjacent to the Greenbelt near Mill Creek.

The land gained by the city would provide a buffer of open space, and Hornby Zeller would gain two parcels and resolve a boundary encroachment issue at their 373 Broadway property.

The Planning Board unanimously endorsed the swap.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.