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South Portland restricts where sex offenders can live

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South Portland restricts where sex offenders can live

SOUTH PORTLAND — City Councilors on Monday unanimously approved new residency restrictions for sex offenders that will prevent them from living within 750 feet of city schools, parks and recreation centers. 

The council also approved the school budget, to be sent to a public referendum on June 10, and removed district representation requirements for boards and committees.

The sex offender restrictions will pertain to people convicted of Class A, B or C crimes against children under age 14. Mayor Jerry Jalbert has said the city has 10 registered sex offenders listed as residents, and another 16 who work or attend school in the city.

At least 12 towns and cities in Maine have considered or enacted their own restrictions on where sex offenders can live since the Legislature gave municipalities the power to do so in 2009. 

Councilors said the restrictions are necessary to protect the city's children, and applauded the Police Department for initiating the change. 

Although no residents spoke in opposition to the restrictions Monday night,  the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has said the restrictions are ineffective.

"These sorts of restrictions impose a second punishment on people who have already served their time, without any evidence that they actually make our communities safer," ACLU spokeswoman Rachel Healy said in a prepared statement. "They also do us a disservice by driving offenders further into the shadows and away from rehabilitation services."

Despite the harsh restrictions, Jalbert said, "there are still plenty of places" where sex offenders can live.

"We’re not eliminating people from living in the city of South Portland, we’re just saying there are particular areas we’re sensitive to," he said. 

The restrictions will not apply to sex offenders who already live within the newly restricted zones.

School budget

Councilors approved the proposed $44.8 million school budget for fiscal year 2015 with little discussion before sending it to the validation vote.

The budget has no significant changes from the most recent workshop, but Jalbert said recent assessments of city property values indicate the city will likely face a 3.3 percent maximum tax increase next year.

The council has not finalized the municipal portion of the budget. 

The school budget validation vote is June 10.

District representation

South Portland will no longer require that there be one appointee from each district on city boards and committees.

Councilors said they have had difficulty finding qualified volunteers to fill spots on the city's board and committees within the current district requirements. To ensure balanced representation, the amended ordinance will allow no more than three appointees from the same district on a board or committee. 

"We’re simply trying to fill positions with the best possible people available," Jalbert said.

The amendment applies to the Conservation Commission, Community Development Advisory Committee, Planning Board, Economic Development Committee, Energy & Recycling Committee, Library Advisory Board, and the Civil Service Commission. 

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or scarignan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.