Portland councilors agree to get 'LED' into new lights

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PORTLAND — Councilors on Monday approved agreements allowing the installation of more energy-efficient street lamps.

With Mayor Ethan Strimling on vacation, councilors also gave their first approval to a new contract with city police that will set up a pilot program for the use of body cameras.

It was entertainment that took up the bulk of their time, though, as a postponed request for liquor and entertainment licenses for a club at 10 Exchange St. were debated for more than an hour before being approved.

By a unanimous vote, the liquor license for the new Exchange Street Club owned by Mark Deane was approved. The entertainment and dance license eventually passed by a 7-1 vote, with the mayor pro tem, Councilor David Brenerman, opposed.

The second license was passed with the provision city staff report back to the council by April 30, 2018, on whether the club is generating complaints from neighbors.

Deane, the owner of five other city establishments, plans a two-floor club in the former Movies at Exchange Street space. On Oct. 2, neighbors in new condominiums upstairs objected to the club’s presence.

While it was quickly determined zoning allows the club to open, councilors postponed a vote on the license to review whether Deane’s other establishments have drawn complaints, and whether the Exchange Street Club was more than the required 100 feet away from similar establishments.

Jessica Hanscombe, the city’s licensing and registration coordinator, said her measurements showed the door to the club was beyond 100 feet from two other businesses with entertainment and dance licenses, but the measurement was not made strictly point-to-point.

Councilor Belinda Ray then objected to granting the license because her more direct method of door-to-door measurement showed distances under 100 feet. She later gave in because city staff customarily measure distances as a person might walk between businesses.

Street lights

In three orders, councilors approved spending $586,000 to buy lights, fixtures and some street lamp poles from Central Maine Power. The purchase is the first step to installing light emitting diode lamps on the poles, and was funded in the last two capital improvement budgets, according to a memo from city Sustainability Coordinator Troy Moon.

The conversion will also include technology providing Wi-Fi signal transmission via the poles.

Following that, councilors approved an agreement with TEN Connect Solutions to implement installation of the lights, projected to save the city $1 million annually in reduced energy costs. The two-phase project is expected to cost $4 million for each phase.

The last agreement approved funds for the first conversion phase through a lease purchase agreement with Banc of America Public Capital Group. Funding for the second conversion phase has not been determined.

The agreements drew public comment only from Bayside resident George Rheault and District 4 Council candidate Kim Rich. Rheault asked councilors to postpone action to reduce costs and ensure the best technology would be used in the conversions.

Incumbent District 4 Councilor Justin Costa said it was time to move on the deals.

“The bottom line is, there is nothing but upside here,” he said.

Police contract

Councilors will vote on the new three-year labor deals with the Police Benevolent Association and Police Superior Officers Benevolent Association after a public hearing on Nov. 6.

In an Oct. 11 memo, city Labor Relations Manager Thomas Caiazzo said the contracts are retroactive to Jan. 1 and expire Dec. 31, 2019. Within the language is “a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to begin discussions on implementing a pilot program regarding body worn cameras with no additional compensation.”

The city redirected $25,000 of federal funding to set up a program using eight cameras last winter. City Manager Jon Jennings said full implementation of a program could begin by July 1, 2018, and the city has also allocated $400,000 to fund in the capital improvements budget.

The pace and scope of implementation came into question after the Feb. 18 fatal shooting of Chance David Baker at Union Station Plaza on St. John Street. Police said they responded to calls Baker was armed and disruptive outside the Subway sandwich shop; he was shot and killed by Sgt. Nicholas Goodman.

The shooting remains under investigation by the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

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

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.