Calais Poised To “Jump The Gun” On Freedom Of Access Act

By Gwen Clark


The Calais City Council  held  their regular meeting on Thursday, February 14th at 6 PM  in the Council Chambers.  All City Councilors , City Manager, Mayor and City attorney were in attendance.   All articles presented in the Consent Agenda were unanimously approved and included  monthly departmental reports, Chase Fund for February, treasurers warrants for the city, school and water through February 13, 2013, Perpetual Care application, liquor license renewal for the St. Croix Country Club and approval of the St. Croix Valley Walk to End Alzheimers on September 14, 2013.

Diane Barnes, city manager,  covered several topics in her report, the first  requesting  the suspension of rules  in order to authorize establishing a fund in order to pay for a feasibility study  for the possibility of providing a nursing home in Calais.   Recently  clients at Mays Funeral Home requested donating money for a provision of  the re-establishment of a  Nursing  Home in Calais.  The council approved the setting up of a donations account for the study.  The city manager felt that such an account and study would strengthen the application when applying for a license.

The city manager informed the council that the city had received a  letter  from the Bangor Daily News requesting a list of all of Calais’ citizens who had received Concealed Gun Carry Permits, names, addresses etc.  The Bangor Daily cited that they would be used in researching articles on domestic violence, drug abuse and weapons.   The Attorney General’s office says that Calais has to comply.  If they choose not to, they are required to let the Bangor Daily know  within five days; otherwise they have to honor the request within a reasonable amount of time.  Councilors Billy Howard and Anne Nixon expressed their strong objections.  Councilor Howard objected  out of   respect and duty to citizens that elected the Councilors to office.  Councilor Nixon the same and also suggested that the topic should have been brought to the Council before the city manager responded to the Bangor Daily and told them they would have the list by Friday, February 22nd.   Attorney Fletcher stated  the Freedom of Access Act requires the city to do so or they would run into numerous legal fees.  Even though, there is a current Bill in the State Legislature that may make this process null and void.   Police Chief Randall  said that once he  received the request he brought it directly to the City Manager and that  “Monday was soon enough for him.”  Approximately ninety letters were sent out by the Bangor daily News to various communities and received on Wednesday by the communities.  The bill in the Legislature L.D. 345  is  “to make permanent the privatization of the concealed permit information.”    Although the Bangor Daily News rescinded its requests as of 9:00 a.m  Friday, February 15th  due in part to Governor LaPage seeking to block the release, a call was made for immediate action necessary in passing an emergency bill.  Another group plans to pick up where the Bangor Daily left off.  The group is called Celebration Connect and their owner is also the publisher of the Portland Press Herald.  It is unclear at this time  what action the city plans to take as of Friday, February 22nd.

Committee reports for the Economic Community development  were presented. Councilor Mingo suggested that other avenues for establishing a top grade web site for the city/school and businesses  and that Axiom was also willing to come back and meet.  It was suggested that the Planning Board review the Downtown Ordinance page by page to update it.

Under new business: Chief Dave Randall gave an explanation of what the Stone Garden grant consisted of;  the Calais police department worked in conjunction with the Border Patrol and visa versa.  The funds of $18,272.80 for overtime and mileage and $9,992 for equipment  which included portable radios etc.  The Council voted to accept the Stone Garden Grant.   Chief Randall also requested the Authorization to Re-designate D.A.R.E. funds as there is no longer a D.A.R.E. Resource Officer. Councilor Mingo implied that he would like to see the funds used in the schools for an education-type program involving the Police Department rather than used for walk throughs once a week.  He felt that as an educational resource it could be better spent.  The article was tabled and turned over to the Public Safety Committee for further research into the educational use facet.

A Public Hearing  is scheduled  for February 28 regarding the CDBG  Public Infrastructure Grant and a Public hearing on March 14 concerning the $200,000 CDBG Downtown Revitalization Grant for Downtown improvements.  Names were submitted  for appointment to the CDBG Advisory Committee  in order to develop programs and decide who will receive  the downtown grants etc..   The Rapid Renewal process was explained to the Council  by Diane Barnes.   It will provide citizens and corporations to renew vehicle registrations on line.   The software purchase cost for the City  is $350 and an annual maintenance fee of $100.  It will provide participants with receipts while they await their decal and registration via the mail.

The second part of using cards for payments  of Tax Bills, Water and Sewer etc.  is thru the Maine Pay Pact where any of these transmissions for payments by using a credit card  the participants will be liable to pay 2 and 1/2 % for the transmission action.  The city  will purchase via TRIO  two card swipes at $30 each  and the software a $500 fee for the program and a $170 installation fee along with a $100 per year maintenance fee.  This will allow Calais to access the State for transactions in the future with a computer processing fee and only for transactions over $40 with no over the phone transactions.

 The WCCOG Council Representative  was needed from the Council level and Mayor Marianne Moore was chosen.   A MDOT Paving discussion was considered  for the upcoming summer projects by Maine DOT. Two running thru Calais one from the Shattuck Road to  South Street and the other  from North Street to Harrison Street in Milltown.   In order for the projects to be completed quicker a suggestion that the crews work during the nights having to deal with less traffic , cooler working conditions and businesses being easily accessible during the day.  City manager Barnes will check on the time frame of the projects.

The last item covered on the agenda was the awarding of  Tax Acquired Property Bids. Three properties consisting of  44 Boardman St lot for $900; 54 Garfield Street lots for $8000 and 153 Union Street lot for $3555 were awarded.  

The Councilors RoundTable  discussions involved getting the notice out to the Public of the establishment of a Fund for the feasibility study for the Nursing Home; City Audit Workshop will be conducted on Feb 28th 5:30 to 6 PM.   Sincere sympathy to the family and regret was expressed on the loss of Chief Mike Milburn.  A scholarship fund is being established in his name and donations or more information can be obtained by contacting Marsha Hayward at the Police Dept.   Mayor Moore met with the Economic/Development Group in St. Stephen.    Attorney Fletcher informed  the Council that information concerning AOS was forthcoming.  City Manager Barnes  rode with Public Works during the last snow storm and praised their hard work and thoroughness .