SOUTH PORTLAND — In addition to passing a tar sands ban Monday night, the City Council also approved a resolution to continue providing general assistance aid to undocumented immigrants in the city, OK’d a liquor license for a new Otto Pizza restaurant, and scheduled a public hearing on a nuisance complaint about a Willard Beach-area property.
Councilors decided in their workshop July 14 not to join Westbrook, Portland and the Maine Municipal Association in a lawsuit challenging the recent state Department of Health and Human Services prohibition on providing general assistance aid to eligible residents who are not U.S. citizens.
But councilors agreed the city should continue providing services as they have historically to individuals and families considered “undocumented,” who are often asylum seekers.
General assistance funds aid eligible families with basic needs, like rent, food, medications and utilities. The funds are capped at 30 days of assistance.
In South Portland, of the $245,000 currently allocated for general assistance, $190,000 is expected to go to housing.
At City Manager Jim Gailey’s request, councilors passed a resolution Monday directing city general assistance staff to continue with business as usual, and affirming their commitment to providing support to undocumented residents.
The city’s noncompliance could open it up to a legal challenge, but most troublesome for the city will be the DHHS’s threat to withhold reimbursements on general assistance for municipalities that continue giving aid to non-citizens.
In South Portland, half the money the city provides in general assistance is reimbursed by the state.
As they passed the resolution Monday, the more than 300 people present gave councilors a standing ovation.
Otto Pizza’s second South Portland location at 125 John Roberts Road will open in early August, according to a liquor license application councilors approved Monday.
It will be Otto’s fourth location in Maine, and the eighth overall (four are in Massachusetts).
Otto opened on Cottage Road last November, and announced in March it would launch a second, larger location with a 30-seat restaurant and food prep and storage space meant to reduce the burden on its smaller shops in Portland.
The liquor license is for beer and wine. The John Roberts Road business will be open daily from 11:30 a.m. to midnight.
Councilors also set Monday, Aug. 4, for a public hearing on an alleged public nuisance property at 29 Willard St.
Fifteen property owners and renters who live within 500 feet of the home signed a petition alleging that its occupants have been “burning household trash from the fireplace.”
They said the fumes blow over the neighborhood, causing many neighbors “nausea, headaches and disorientation.”