South Portland council unmoved by Knightville parking complaints

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Shortly after City Manager James Gailey said no additional City Council action was needed Monday to change parking configurations on Ocean Street in Knightville, three business owners criticized councilors for their decision.

Jon Platt, owner of Nonesuch Books in the Mill Creek Plaza, said although a change from angled to parallel parking spaces would not affect his store, he sympathized with business owners north of Legion Square.

“Your decision puts two major strikes against the retailers,” Platt said, because fewer spaces will be available directly in front of businesses in a neighborhood already struggling to attract customers.

Platt, vice president of South Portland Buy Local, was followed to the lectern by Bellisimo Salon owner Dani Nisbet, who is a director of the organization.

Nisbet asked councilors to reconsider the decision eliminating angled parking as sidewalks are widened in a two-block stretch of Ocean Street. She said the area is unique in the city and the changes would harm the area as it rebounds from a loss of traffic following the opening of the Casco Bay Bridge.

Mayor Patti Smith thanked the business owners for their input, but gave no indication additional council discussion on parking would occur.

Also Monday, after approving the appointment of Robert Foster to the city energy and recycling committee, councilors were introduced to the new Parks and Recreation director, Rick Towle.

Towle served in the same capacity in Talbot County, Md., on the state’s Eastern Shore. Before working in Maryland, Towle was recreation director in Old Orchard Beach.

Gailey said Towle is in his second week on the job and takes over from Tim Gato, who was interim director. Gato was filling in after the departure of longtime Director Dana Anderson, who left at the end of last year.

In other business:

• Councilors were told a program to implement energy-saving technology and equipment through a lease with Siemens Corp. led to $102,000 savings in utility costs. The savings stem from energy improvements recommended by the company in a 2010 audit.

Gailey said the city accepted about 85 percent of the audit recommendations. The company then performed the work, including the installation of a new boiler system to heat the pool at the South Portland Community Center.

The boiler system generated $20,000 in savings from budgeted fuel costs in the last fiscal year. By a 6-0 vote, councilors approved shifting the entire $102,000 from various budget lines to pay debt service on the 10-year lease.

• Councilors accepted the first reading of changes to the municipal purchasing policy approved last January, which will give city officials more flexibility to lock in fuel and electricity rates.

Gailey said the changes would allow Finance Director Greg L’Heureux to get lower rates after consulting with the city manager, but without a council vote. The council would have already approved overall fuel costs as municipal line items in the annual budget.

The first reading moves the order to a second reading and council vote on July 16, but without an additional section related to the sale of properties acquired through tax liens. Gailey said those procedures will be discussed in a workshop next month.

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.