South Portland may join review of FEMA flood maps

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The city is ready to join the review process with several other municipalities of new floodplain maps issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

It remains to be seen if Ransom Consulting, which already represents six towns in Cumberland and York counties, will be amenable to the contract councilors approved by a 6-1 vote.

Authorizing the contract capped a three-hour meeting, which included a 30-minute executive session on contract options.

Councilors also approved the purchase of a new fire truck, which accompanied news of serious mold remediation needed at the Cash Corner fire station.

Zoning changes proposed for areas of Clarks Pond and Running Hill Road were discussed, but the order was tabled until Jan. 3. Councilors also set aside a reconsideration of a request for a curb cut outside Rolando’s, a convenience store on U.S. Route 1 near the Scarborough town line.

City Manager Scott Morelli outlined three points of contention in the terms of the Ransom contract, but consultant Steve Ransom said the company did not have issue with removing a term of two years on liability claims against the company for its work, or having the company pay legal costs should in the event it makes an unsuccessful claim against the city.

The contract, opposed by new District 5 Councilor Adrian Dowling for unspecified reasons, places no financial limits on liability claims against Ransom, while the company had sought a limit of $35,000, the price of its contract to handle the first phase of map appeals.

Ransom suggested “$1 million, or available insurance, whichever is less,” Morelli said in a council memo, but he and Corporation Counsel Sally Daggett remained firm on a contract with no liability limit.

Ransom is already working with Harpswell, Kittery, Wells, Kennebunkport and Old Orchard Beach on potential appeals to FEMA maps designed to update flood plain designations.

Two sets of maps have been presented and withdrawn; the latest set was released in April.

The maps have been in the works for nearly a decade, and could require more mortgage holders to purchase flood insurance and changes in zoning regulations for future development.

Fire station mold

Councilors unanimously approved allocating $1.1 million set aside in the current capital improvements budget to replace Engine 5, but in doing so, kept a lease/purchase option open.

The “wrinkle” city Finance Director Greg L’Heureux added to the order came in the form of remediation of mold at the Cash Corner fire station, 360 Main St.

Engineers are examining the station, where at least one bedroom has been closed off. A very preliminary estimate for work is $1.5 million, and remediation could close the station for months, L’Heureux said.

“This has a higher priority to me than even the fire truck,” L’Heureux added as he suggested a possible shift of $1 million of CIP funds from the truck purchase to station repairs.

L’Heureux said the full report on conditions and possible remediation costs will be ready early in 2018. The city would also have a 60-day window to change the fire truck sale to a lease/purchase agreement that could extend for eight to 10 years, with annual interest around 3.5 percent to 4 percent.

The truck, which could be delivered next fall, according to Fire Chief James Wilson, would cost a minimum of $1.06 million and replace a truck placed in service in 2004 that now has a rusted frame.

The request for proposals for a new truck specified a galvanized frame to protect it better from the elements, and drew one bid, from Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton, Wisconsin.

Wilson said the department has been using a 20-year-old truck instead of the 2004 model.

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.