South Portland opens window of opportunity for parking scofflaws

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SOUTH PORTLAND — “Pay ’em if you’ve got ’em” was the message from city councilors Monday when they unanimously approved a modified amnesty program for unpaid parking tickets.

From Dec. 26 through Feb. 28, 2013, city residents with outstanding parking tickets dating to 2009 will be allowed to pay the court waiver fees without also paying late fees.

The catch is that residents with unpaid parking tickets will not be able to register their vehicles until the fees are paid. The waiver fees range from $15 for parking in a bus stop to $100 for parking in a handicapped space without a permit.

“It is a nice olive branch,” Councilor Patti Smith said about the program.

City Manager Jim Gailey was uncertain how many unpaid tickets there are. “It’s in the hundreds,” he said.

The amnesty program is written into the ordinance governing parking rules, but Gailey said there are no plans to make it an annual occurrence.

In other business, bids for repair work at the Bug Light Park boat launch and for two new school buses were approved, and some proceeds of a property sale were allocated to the purchase of acreage on Highland Avenue adjacent to the city transfer station.

In what Tom Meyers, the transportation and waterfront director said hopes will be the last phase of repairs to the public boat launch at Bug Light Park, councilors approved a bid of almost $54,000 by Freeport-based CPM Constructors to rebuild the ramp in time for the next boating season.

The work is funded in part through grants from the Maine Department of Transportation and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The DOT grant helps fund the construction, while the conservation grant provides construction materials.

Meyers said the boat launch area has been rebuilt over the last five years, and he expects the current floats will be sold while other materials can be reused by the city Public Works Department.

By ordinance, a council vote is required on bus purchases, and councilors approved two bids of almost $89,000 and $85,000 from W.C. Cressey & Son of Kennebunk for one 66-seat full-sized bus equipped with a chair lift, and a standard full-sized bus to accommodate 77 riders.

Cressey sells Thomas Built Buses and submitted the lowest of three bids for both buses.

The initial funding comes from the South Portland School Department School Bus Reserve Account, with some reimbursement from the Maine Department of Education Essential Programs and Services subsidy coming in fiscal year 2014.

School Transportation Director Dan Lamarre said the bus equipped with a lift is an addition to the fleet, while the second bus replaces one taken out of service several years ago.

A higher-than-anticipated auction price on a tax-acquired three-family home at 857 Broadway allowed councilors to appropriate almost $94,000 to a new Public Works Facility Reserve Fund. The money is 70 percent of the $134,200 earned by the sale and after settling the property’s delinquent tax bill and auction expenses. The remaining 30 percent of the proceeds will be placed in the city Land Bank Account.

After approving the allocation of sale proceeds, councilors also approved appropriating almost $77,000 from the Public Works Facility Reserve Fund to buy an undeveloped two-acre parcel at 955 Highland Avenue.

The land, now owned by Douglas Gagne, has about 120 feet of frontage on Highland Avenue and the city already has an easement allowing vehicles access to the transfer station. Gailey said the most immediate benefit would be reconstructing the road to the transfer station for improved access for heavier vehicles.

The land could also be used as a ball field or sledding hill, especially when an adjacent fill site is capped.

“You could start on the top and get a good ripper down that hill,” Gailey said.

Monday’s meeting was probably the last for Councilor Tom Coward, who is expected to resign Jan. 1, 2013, to become a Cumberland County commissioner.

Coward, who also served a one-year term as mayor through 2010, was elected to second, three-year term in District 1 in 2011.

“It seems like the four years have zipped right by,” he said during the councilor comment period that concludes council meetings.

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

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.