2017-10-20 / Front Page

Kennebunk to launch K-9 program

New initiative among goals laid out during semi-annual department reports to selectmen
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — In what has grown to become a semi-annual tradition in Kennebunk over the past couple of years, department heads have begun appear- ing before selectmen to report on “significant accomplishments” within their jurisdictions over the past six months, and to identify “select goals and objectives” on the front burner for completion before the end of the current fiscal year, June 30.

The Sept. 26 meeting saw presentations from Public Services Director Eric Labelle, Town Clerk Merton Brown, and Fire Chief Jeff Rowe, while Oct. 10 brought reports from Police Chief Robert MacKenzie, Assessor Daniel Robinson, General Assistance Director Karen Winton and Library Director Jill LeMay. On Oct. 24, the final round of reports will be delivered by Community Development Director Chris Osterrieder, Recreation Director Tasha Pinkham, Finance Director Joel Downs and Town Manager Michael Pardue.

Police Department

Police Chief Robert MacKenzie pointed out that his department got three grants totaling more than $26,000 last year from the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety for officer overtime to staff details dedicated to catching impaired and distracted drivers. The money also helped pay for a new $2,000 radar unit.

While not statistics were provided on how many arrests or summonses came from those added patrols, MacKenzie did say the implementation this past summer of a new passport parking system resulted in 565 beach parking tickets, of which 75 percent have not been paid. This is an increase over the old system, he said, which normally pulled about a 65 percent compliance rate with the payment of fines.

In the realm of public relations, MacKenzie said Kennebunk is now in its fourth iteration of the Citizens Police Academy, which served to familiarize the public with police processes and functions, and the town’s participation on National Night Out was deemed a “big success” with plans to repeat it again next August.

Among recent training exercises, police officers from around New England joined local detectives as Kennebunk hosted a three-day crime scene scene processing class. On Oct. 19-20, more officers will come to town from all over Maine for an Advanced Roadside impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) class.

“This course is designed to help our officers become more proficient in detecting, apprehending testing and prosecuting impaired drivers, which is even more crucial given this time of legalization of marijuana and the ongoing heroin epidemic,” MacKenzie said, noting eight local officers will undergo the training.

Speaking of the opioid crisis, the Kennebunk Police Department recently provided Rotary Club members with training on how to administer aid to overdose victims.

Two similar trainings for the public will be coming up on Oct. 16 at the West Kennebunk Fire Station, and on Oct. 25 at Middle School of the Kennebunks.

There are openings for 60 people in each class, and 47 have signed up already. Anyone interested in either class may register online at kennebunkmaine.us/worktogether, or call for more information at 985-2012.

Still, the biggest news of MacKenzie’s presentation is that he is considering the creation of a K-9 dog program for the Kennebunk Police Department.

A budget for the new program is still being crafted, he said, but could be offset with grant dollars and money awarded to the town by the courts through the asset forfeiture program.

“I truly believe the addition of a certified drug dog would do exceedingly well in our efforts in combating drugs in our community,” MacKenzie said.

Assessing

Assessor Daniel Robinson said the department struggled with being short-staffed during commitment season, which kept him from attending a national training session, but he hopes to be up to full staff soon and will attend the class next year.

The department continues and ongoing process to “go paperless” and his now scanned between 90-to-95 percent of its working documents and tax cards. Meanwhile, implementation of the new Geographic Information System (GIS) is now complete and the tool, which provides data on individual property lots, is fully functional on the assessing page of the town website.

“We have had a lot of positive feedback from the public as well as staff. It’s been a great tool for our code enforcement department,” Robinson said.

Robinson said local flyovers to create geolibrary orthoimagery for the Maine Office of GIS has been put of to the spring of 2018. Robinson said a new memorandum of understanding has been signed with the state and he expects to have access to that data by the end of 2018.

Finally, Robinson said the ratio of local town property assessments to prices realized from actual home sales has fallen to a townwide average of 85.

That drove the homestead tax exemption allowed by the state down from $20,000 to $17,000 — still good for an average of $281 off local tax bills. Still, the goal is to stay between 90 and 110 percent. percent. And while Robinson said he does not anticipate the need for a townwide revaluation project, he will probably need to make various neighborhood and similar property adjustments.

“There has been a continuing uptick in the market and we’ll probably have to make some broad-based changes over the next year and a half or so,” he said.

General Assistance

General Assistance Director Karen Winton noted that the town’s committee on aging has finalized creation of a program to loan medical equipment to those in need (more information online at kennebunkmaine.us/loancloset), while her department recently sponsored a training for public officials and others on hoarding with Eric Grainger, founder of the Southern Maine Task Force on Hoarding.

During the last general election, volunteers collected 1,130 pounds of nonperishable foods and $625 in donations for the Community Outreach Services food pantry, and there are plans to be at the polls again this November, Winton said.

Library

Outgoing Library Director Jill LeMay, due to retire Nov. 3, gave over most her presentation to Assistant Director and head of adult services Michelle Connors, who is slated to serve as interim director until a permanent replacement is hired.

LeMay said a record 620 people registered for the library’s 20th annual fundraising road race. She did not say exactly how much the library took in, but did note that the amount, even after the cost of introducing “chipped” timing of runners, ran 19 percent more than expected.

“It was just an unbelievably successful year,” she said. “It is only because of this great community that we’re able to have this success.”

Conners reviewed library programs conducted this past summer, noting that the library gave out more than 1,000 solar eclipse glasses and increased teen and adult participation with “immediate gratification” in the form of lottery and raffle tickets.

The library also launched a circulating board game collection.

Public services

Despite being down an operations manager and a working foreman, Public Services Director Eric Labelle said his crew had managed to complete a number of projects over the summer.

Among these, employees improved infields of town baseball and softball fields, fixed road drainage systems, installed a new swing set in Lower Village and repaired basketball hoops there, made improvements to the park at Grove and Park streets and completed repairs to Grove Street, Perkins Lane and Emmons Road.

The public works and parks crews also replaced all street signs in town, conducted maintenance projects at town hall, including re-doing floors and repainting third-floor meeting rooms.

Workers are currently addressing drainage issues on Route 1 South and plan to apply 20,000 pounds of crack sealing to roads throughout town by the end of the fall.

Asked about the future, Labelle said he is at a crossroads and faced with three options that may play out as part of his next annual budget — hire more full and/or part-time employees, contract out for some of the work now done in-house, or reduce services.

Town clerk

According to Town Clerk Merton Brown, Kennebunk is in the Top 5 for marriage destinations in Maine, having issued 85 marriage licenses so far in 2017.

Over the summer, the town also issued 104 burial permits, 2,500 beach parking stickers and 1,971 licenses to 1,300 dog owners. Also, 993 people have changed their voter registration since January, having either moved or changed political parties, bringing the number of registered voters in town “close to 10,000” for the first time.

Although the town needs to keep physical voter registration cards on file by state law, despite being part of the statewide electronic voter registration database, Brown said issues with storage space have him trying to determine if and how his department can scan old meeting minutes for digital storage.

Brown also said polling places may change after the November elections as one of his goals is to “determine the best voting locations” in town.

Fire department

Fire Chief Jeffrey Rowe said the new fireworks permits are done and ready to be issued as needed and that fire pits were built that will be placed at Narragansett Point.

Three firefighters are currently training to be paramedics, while Rowe said he is in search of a new captain to replace a senior member of his leadership team who resigned from the fire service to pursue other interests.

The town also has signed an agreement with Scarborough to maintain fire engines, a contract he said is designed to serve as a “backup” to services the fire department now gets from Kennebunk Public Works.

Looking to the future, Rowe advised selectmen to expect a request in the next budget for a new tanker, a $250,000 cost, to replace a truck that is now 37 years old.

Asked about average response times, Rowe said he is preparing a presentation on the topic that he plans to give during his annual budget request next spring.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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