Friday, August 7, 2020

Windham’s accomplishments a reflection of council’s priorities, town manager says

Members of Windham's Public Works Department
work on a drainage culvert on Cottage Road near
Highland Lake on Tuesday. The project is about
75 percent complete and is intended to improve the
drainage runoff in the area, boosting water quality
By Ed Pierce
When Windham’s town manager reviews what has been accomplished by the town council in the past year, he sees a lot for residents to be proud of.
Barry Tibbetts assumed duties as Windham Town manager last fall and says he’s been amazed at how prioritized the council has been in getting things done.
“A lot of things have been looked at and worked on,” Tibbetts said. “We’re at a point to make changes for the betterment of the community.”
Led by council chair Jarrod Maxwell, Windham town councilors are focused on resolving longstanding issues despite varying viewpoints and differences, Tibbetts said.
Some of what has been achieved in the past year includes establishing and clarifying town policies dealing with growth, marijuana and the use of town facilities. that end, Tibbetts said councilors have explored problems associated with growth in Windham by revising town permit fees and subdivision ordinance, addressing illegal subdivisions, implementing a growth ordinance along with new impact fees along with new impact fees and specific design standards.
“Growth affects everything we do in our community,” Tibbetts said. “It affects everything from traffic and water quality to the size of our schools and the council wants to ensure we grow in the right way. We can now do that with these new policies and ordinance in place.”
He also said councilors resolved questions about the town’s marijuana ordinance by examining revisions to existing state law, comparing Windham’s rules with other Maine municipalities and then revising its ordinance accordingly. As such, the town is now entering the application phase for adult-use marijuana businesses and that process will be completed by early fall.“This is a huge accomplishment for the council,” Tibbetts said. “This has been a point of contention for some time and it’s great to see the council reach a consensus regarding this ordinance.”
The other major policy issued that councilors have addressed is about the utilization of operational space by the town following studies conducted in 2013, 2014 and 2019 for several buildings. It resulted in space better used by Windham Police and Fire Departments, Tibbetts said, and a recommended expansion of operational space for the town hall.
“As far as the police station goes, previous engineering studies showed a building built for 22 in 1989 now houses more than 45 people,” he said. “Through efforts of the council, bonding for renovation of the police facility was approved by voters at the annual town meeting. The design and construction phase for that work is now starting. The same approach took place for the Fire Central Station with the renovation for that facility built to the latest standards and providing growth space for the department in the future.”  
Tibbetts said that councilors also are examining how to resolve traffic issues through the town, including North Windham.
According to Tibbetts, funding has been obtained for smart traffic lights to interconnect on Route 302 to assist traffic in flowing better in Windham and the town has also entered into a study with the Maine Department of Transportation regarding access roads to keep traffic moving smoothly on Route 302.“The council is also engaged with the Portland Water District to find a sewer solution for the North Windham area. This project has been stalled for many years,” Tibbetts said. “We now have an agreement with the Portland Water District to determine the feasibility of using new sewer technology and determining, as cost will allow us to make a better-informed decision. Prior to this approach we were held captive to a $55 million expense to Westbrook now due to inflation closer to $75 million, but this new approach with advanced technology will yield a much lower long-term cost. No waste will be pumped to Westbrook.”
Other projects that have been accomplished over the past year in Windham include funding of sidewalks on Route 35 at Route 302; the installation of LED streetlights that will save Windham roughly $65,000 a year in operational costs; creating a new turn lane from Route 302 and paving of Brand Road; creating additional parking and improvements at Lippman Park; separating the TIF budget from the municipal budget; a thorough review of all town fees to reflect a more accurate reflection of service costs; moving Public Works into its new facility; implementing a Code of Ethics for town councilors and adopting a town social media policy.
Ongoing projects that should be completed soon include reworking the drainage system along the east side of Highland Lake to adhere to storm water compliance; entering Phase 2 of improvements to the Windham Skate Park; and issuing a Request for Proposals to developers for their best approach to creatively reusing the Southwest Fire Station.
“Windham has been looking at all of these issues for some time but hasn’t been able to get them over the finish line,” Tibbetts said. “This council has done a commendable job in working together to get these completed for the town and we all can take great pride in what has been accomplished this past year.” <      


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