Minutes of the West End Neighborhood Association Meeting
Wednesday, 14 January 2015
Reiche Community Room
Board members present: Jennifer Defillip, Leana Good-Simpson, Rosanne Graef, Ian Jacob, Mitch Mason, Christine McHale, Michel Michaud, Liz Parsons, Jeanne Swanton, Clifford Tremblay, Judy Witherell
Others present: David Argitis, Richard Bianculli, Jill Bock, Kris Clark, Sarah Colton, Webb Ferrall, Steve Graef, Peter Hall, Jeff Kingsbury, David LaCasse, Wells Lyons, Deborah McCoy, Glen McGary, Janet Mishoe, Peter Munro, Lin Parsons, Kent Redford, Holly Seeliger, Pamela Shaw, Pamela Shelton, Joshua Soros, Tony Zeli
The meeting began at 6:35 PM. Incoming president, Ian Jacob, thanked retiring president, Rosanne Graef, for her leadership over the past three years. There was an official “passing of the gavel” and board members presented Rosanne with a gift. All expressed their appreciation.
Secretary’s report: No report.
Treasurer’s report: The general account contains $181.84, following payment of $360 to the West End News for advertisements and $100 to Preble Street as a donation. The swim account contains $5,417.01. Report approved as given.
Board members’ reports: Ian Jacob called the group’s attention to the City’s new smart phone app FixitPortland. This tool allows citizens to report problems in need of attention that will improve quality of life. It is also available online at http://portlandmaine.gov/1448/Fix-It-Portland.
Ian also reported on his attendance at the most recent State and High Street two-way conversion study group. A straw vote gauging the group’s views on the return of traffic to two-way yielded 15 yes; 4 no; 4 undecided. Another public meeting will soon take place. WENA members will receive notice via email.
Rosanne Graef reminded those present to check carefully any agendas of City committees such as the Housing and Community Development Committee. Occasionally items appear that the public may not know about, so it is in everyone’s interest to remain vigilant.
Neighborhood watch: Dave Argitis began his report by introducing attorney Richard Bianculli, the new neighborhood prosecutor, and Lt. Glen McGary, newly appointed head of community policing. There were no comprehensive statistics on incidents in the West End this month since the statistician is on medical leave. Officer Argitis did, however, note 4 motor vehicle burglaries during December. These occurred at the following addresses: 169 State, 18 Thomas, 205 St. John, and 227 Valley.
He also discussed follow-on to concerns raised in past meetings:
- Harbor View Park continues to be monitored more closely and there has been a reduction in the number of calls for service;
- West Commercial Street had a spate of fires, possibly a burglary, and calls for service concerning informal camps on the east side of the street. J. B. Brown, the landowning company, conducted some tree cutting to open up the space and that has helped reduce the number of incidents on the property. Additional development and tree cutting is expected to occur on the west side of the street over the next several years.
- A concern was raised that the area not be clear cut. Officer Argitis stated that all tree cutting is conducted in consultation with the city arborist to ensure retention of major and most valuable trees.
- 35-37 Tate Street is in foreclosure, now boarded up and semi-secure.
- 135 Emery Street is an ongoing matter for the courts.
- Prostitution in the Walker Street area continues to be monitored and the department has identified offenders.
- Break-ins occurred at the Clark Street Deli and at Petit Jacqueline.
Richard Bianculli then introduced himself and spoke about his responsibilities as neighborhood prosecutor. He invited community members to contact him any time at 207-756-8350 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A brief discussion followed his remarks.
Glen McGary then introduced himself and gave an overview of his vision for community policing.
Old Business: Concerns about parking in the Brackett and York Streets area are being investigated by Rosanne, Clifford, and Ian. They have identified some options that would relieve congestion and the next step is to meet with the transportation department.
Liz and Rosanne gave a brief update on the status of WENA’s possibly carrying on a bit of the Portland Public Library’s “Choosing Civility” Initiative. They will attend the summary session at the Library on January 24th and are scheduled to meet with Library collaborators, Lift360, on January 15th. More information will be forthcoming.
New Business: Jeff Kingsbury, a resident of Spring Street, presented the group with an idea for improving property security. This would include voluntary use of surveillance cameras and possibly a community-based website where footage of suspicious activity could be uploaded. Cars on his property have been vandalized multiple times and he has devised this idea in hopes that a greater sense of awareness would be a deterrent. Dave Argitis, Glen McGary, and Rich Bianculli all responded from their perspectives and a lengthy discussion among the assembled group ensued. No consensus was reached nor were next steps named but Jeff thanked the group for listening and commenting.
David LaCasse, representing Friends of Congress Square Park, gave an update on results of work by the redesign study group. Based on public comment about either a ground level or elevated level park, the redesign study group voted 10-5 in favor of a ground level park. The matter then went before the Parks and Land Bank Commissions. These bodies voted unanimously in favor of a ground level park. The next step is for the finance committee to identify potential funding for such renovation. The assembled group applauded this report.
Future activity at Congress Square Park includes Winterfest, scheduled for 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Saturday, 24 January. The area is being prepared for team building of snow sculptures. Citizens are invited to form teams of 5-6 people who can participate in this competition.
Rosanne proposed that WENA become a member of Friends of Congress Square Park at the $100 level. The motion passed.
Ian reminded everyone of the Steve Summers Memorial Fund. Contributions can be made at http://www.gofundme.com/gofupk.
Rosanne, Clifford, Liz, and Sandra Kynes continue to work on improvements to the Clark Street Park. More information on things that can be done over the winter will be forthcoming via email.
Jen Defillip recently had a fire inspection at her property and asked that fire inspections be addressed at a future WENA meeting. Ian stated that this would be placed on the February agenda.
Tony Zeli talked briefly about WENA’s advertising in the West End News. Lin Parsons proposed that WENA continue paying $48/month for an ad through June, 2015. The motion passed.
The owner of a property on Danforth Street is planning to convert the building to a multiple unit dwelling and is seeking investors. Ian has more information.
Portland Trails is holding community conversations on the use of public spaces. More information is available at http://trails.org/programs/.
There was a recent public hearing on proposed rezoning of the Portland Company complex. Ian attended and reported that the City is attempting to be cognizant of citizen concerns about the potential size of any development that will take place.
The meeting adjourned at 7:58 PM.