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In this month's issue: A History and Review of Road Impact Fees; Synergize Sanford's September Event; The New Sanford Micro-Enterprise Assistance Program; Executive Director Jim Nimon Prepares to "Dance with the Stars", Mousam Valley Mushrooms grows in Springvale, and much more!

News & Events


Synergize Sanford Meets
"Entrepreneur On Fire"
John 
Lee Dumas
on
 September 23rd

Synergize Sanford's guest speaker on September 23rd will be John Lee Dumas, the creator and host of EntrepreneurOnFire, a daily podcast of interviews with successful entrepreneurs. John is a Maine native and veteran, and he is also the creator of Podcasters' Paradise: a community where over 1200 Podcasters learn how to create, grow, and monetize their podcast in a supportive environment. Entrepreneur On Fire generates over 750,000 unique listens a month.   John Lee Dumas at the microphone.
What exactly is a podcast? Simply put, a podcast is a program (often a series of programs) of audio, music or video files which are shared with subscribers on a computer or mobile device. Users can listen or watch live, but more often they download the content to be used at a later date.

John will share the story of his journey with Synergize Sanford and will talk about the power of building an audience online and creating a viable business as a result. He will also share some of the things he's learned from conversations with hundreds of other entrepreneurs from all over the country.

Please join us for an enlightening evening of socializing, learning, and creating synergy in Sanford - we promise, you don't have to be tech-savvy to enjoy this event!
 
EVENT DETAILS: 
Tuesday, September 23rd
5:00 - 7:30 PM
Bradford Block Bistro
459 Main Street, Springvale
 
Admission $5 at the door.
Food provided by
Bradford Block Bistro;
cash bar available.
 
Seating is limited.  Please visit the Synergize Sanford Facebook page to RSVP and for more event information.
 
Learn more about John Lee Dumas and EntrepreneurOnFire on the EOF website. For more information about Synergize Sanford, visit the group's website.
 
High School/Tech Center Update


Now that the Maine State School Board has approved the proposed site for Sanford's new high school and technical center, the building design and concept are the next focus. A public information presentation regarding the design and budget for the proposed new school will be held on:
 
Tuesday, September 30th
6:00 to 7:30 PM
Sanford High School Cafeteria

A Straw Poll of residents of Sanford and Springvale in attendance regarding support for the design and the proposed budget will be held at 7:30 PM.

Attendees will have the opportunity to see the layout and design of the new facility and view architectural renderings of certain key spaces such as the gym, performing arts center, tech labs and classrooms. A proposed budget for the project will detail the State of Maine's participation in the project as well as our local contribution to the the project. Opportunities for questions and answers will be provided.

The Straw Poll is a required step before the project can be brought to the State School Board in October for their approval. Voters will have final approval of the new High School and Technical Center project in a referendum held in early January 2015.

For further updates about the high school and technical center project, visit the School Construction News page on the Sanford Schools website.
 
Growth Council ED Takes to the Dance Floor November 1st!

We are excited to announce that the Growth Council's own Executive Director Jim Nimon will be one of the featured performers in the 2014 "Let's Dance with the Stars" competition in Sanford, Maine! Jim will be partnered with Lori Hegarty from Sanford Parks and Recreation, who has a strong dance background and a history of guiding her partners in this competition to success. 
Growth Council ED Jim Nimon and "Let's Dance with the Stars" partner Lori Hegarty
If you would like to see Jim and Lori dance, we have a limited number of floor-side tickets on sale for $15 each.  Or you can purchase bleacher seats for $10 apiece. All proceeds will go to the Maine Children's Cancer Program, and all ticket-holders get to vote on which contestant wins.  So please come and join us and support Jim as he helps this excellent cause!
 
Saturday, November 1, 2014
6:00 - 9:00 PM
Memorial Gymnasium
Sanford, Maine

For more information, contact our office: 207-324-9155 or info@sanfordgrowth.org. Visit the "Let's Dance with the Stars" Facebook page for photos and videos of past performances.
 

Planning Board Begins Discussion on New Proposed Sign Ordinance

On September 17th, the City's Planning Board began discussing a new proposed sign ordinance for Sanford. The meeting included a presentation outlining the existing ordinance (view it here) and review of a "model" sign ordinance that will serve as the foundation for Sanford's new draft. The Planning Board's goal is to have a sign ordinance that is simply constructed, easy for citizens to understand, and efficient to implement. The City's Planning Director is drafting the new ordinance for the Planning Board and it will be reviewed at meetings in October.

Planning Board meetings are open to the public. The next meeting will be:
 
Wednesday, October 1st
7:00-9:00 PM
Council Chambers, Sanford City Hall

The Planning Board's calendar, agendas and minutes of meetings can be viewed on the City's website here.
 
Natural Gas Discussion Continues
 
[Note from the Editor: In our past two newsletters, we have talked a fair amount about natural gas, shared interviews and given examples of the cost benefits that some local companies have seen as a result of converting to natural gas. (To view past issues, visit our newsletter archive.) We want our readers to have as much information as possible in order to make informed choices, so we have agreed to print this letter from the Maine Energy Marketers Association (MEMA) which presents an alternative viewpoint on natural gas.]


As you know, this past winter brought us some of the highest home heating bills seen in years, regardless of energy source because of the coldest temperatures in recent memory. So, as we all seek ways to cut our energy bills this coming winter, we ask that you take a moment to get all of the facts before doing so.

At www.maineenergyIQ.com you’ll learn about:

•    Price:  Natural gas may not be the cheapest long-term fuel option for you.
•    Conversion Costs:  It may be far more expensive to convert your system to natural gas than you have been led to believe. 
•    Natural Gas and the Environment:   Natural gas isn’t as green as you may have been led to believe.
•    More Energy Options:  How do you benefit from having multiple, local heating oil and propane dealers to choose from, as opposed to one natural gas utility? 

Price. Did you know that with your present fuel, you will save money and may reduce your usage by 25-40% simply by upgrading your current heating equipment?  You can save even more through home energy upgrades such as better sealing or more insulation. Last winter, wholesale natural gas prices were the highest ever, and experts predict annual natural gas prices could double again. In fact, it is reported that the Bangor School Department is facing an 80% unexpected increase in their natural gas costs for this upcoming winter (MaineNews.com 8-27-14).

Municipalities also need to consider protecting the city’s taxpayers when major infrastructure projects like natural gas expansion take place. Hallowell recently had a 20% rate increase from the water district due to costs associated with natural gas line expansion “Water rates in the city will rise to cover costs of natural gas expansion” (The Morning Sentinel 9-3-14).  Ordinances that require curb to curb re-pavement when roads are excavated help to prevent such increases and should be considered before any municipality allows their streets to be dug up.

Conversion costs. Low conversion costs cited for natural gas conversions may reflect cheaper, more inefficient equipment, resulting in higher long-term costs for you.  

The environment. Did you know that propane, not natural gas, is the cleanest fuel available to you?  Natural gas is methane – a very potent greenhouse gas. Recent studies have shown that emissions from leaking natural gas utility pipes throughout the country contribute more greenhouse gas emissions than the savings obtained by converting power plants from coal to natural gas. 

Energy options. With heating oil and propane you work with local businesses, typically family owned, who have served Maine competitively for decades.  This ensures you always have energy options to ensure the best price and service.

Jamie Py, President
Maine Energy Marketers Association

For more information on MEMA visit their website.
 

10th Annual YCCC Entrepreneur of the Year Awards


York County Community College's 10th annual Entrepreneur Awards competition is underway! Nominations are being accepted until September 26th in six categories:

- Student Entrepreneur of the Year
- Rookie of the Year
- Employer of the Year
- Small Business of the Year
- Medium Business of the Year
- Large Business of the Year

The nominees will be recognized at the Entrepreneur Awards Dinner on November 13th and one winner from each category will be selected, with one business going on to be crowned as Entrepreneur of the Year.

This is a great opportunity for businesses new and old to be recognized and promoted in York County!  Please submit your nominations now and mark your calendars for the awards dinner:
 
Thursday, November 13th
5:30 PM
Nonatum Resort, Kennebunkport

Visit our website for more information or to download a registration form, or visit YCCC's Center for Entrepreneurship.
 

You Can Help the Growth Council Increase our Reach!

We want to reach as many as people as possible to spread news about all the good things that are happening here in Sanford, Maine!  So if you know someone that you think might be interested in receiving our monthly newsletter, please forward this issue to them or give them the link to our archive/sign-up page.  We also post interesting articles, news and announcements  daily on our Facebook page - so if you haven't Liked us yet, this is your chance!

The Growth Council never sends our newsletter to anyone unless they request it - because we don't want to create spam, we want to provide a quality source of information about what's happening in Sanford, Maine.   Please help us share the good news!

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Letter from Jim Nimon, Executive Director



I'm feeling energized as we prepare for Autumn 2014 to arrive next week. Along with working every day with local companies (see our article below on Farming Fungi), we at the Growth Council continue to work on a number of foundational issues that will help set the stage for future economic growth in the Sanford Region.

I'm talking specifically about moving from our broadband plan to implementation of a city-wide network so we can enhance community anchor institutions and entice high tech companies from away to give us a serious look. And coalescing as a community around the notion of a new, world-class high school and technical center that we richly deserve for our children and grandchildren, and that we can market as an extraordinary asset to young people not presently in Sanford who are interested in a great education and quality of life for their families (see the notice below left for the date of the Straw Poll at month's end).

We continue discussions with Unitil to extend the natural gas pipeline further into our city so more residents and companies have energy choices. The location of the new school has helped move the hypothetical conversations to real action so the high school and technical center will have access to natural gas along with others on the Main Street expansion route planned. We have provided information in past newsletters about natural gas so in the interest of educating consumers about energy choices we have included an information letter this month from the Maine Energy Marketers Association (see below). We continue to encourage you all to educate yourselves about energy options in the community and make the best choice for your business.

Another item "fresh off the press" is pending City Council action on the Sanford Road Impact Fee Ordinance. Earlier this week I testified at a City Council public hearing in order to express support for the suspension of the ordinance. This is a complicated matter that again requires us all to inform ourselves of the pros and cons of having a Road Impact Fee in Sanford. I praised the City Council for recognizing the problems associated with the current ordinance and their willingness to revisit both the rationale for the ordinance and technical language that directs how it presently works. Read the article below for some background on the Road Impact Fee, check out the links to documents and immerse yourself in the facts if you have the time and interest, and please "Save the Date" and come have your perspective heard at the City Council's second reading on Tuesday, October 7th.

As of last Tuesday, by a vote of 6-1, the City Council amended the language in Order #14-145.09 and eliminated the "retroactive" clause. This means that if the order is passed at the next City Council meeting, developers will not be subject to a retroactive fee once the issue is resolved, i.e. there will be no impact fees collected from the effective date of October 7th to the date additional action is taken by the City Council. A formal review of the ordinance will be undertaken and must be concluded within six months. Recommendations may include amending or eliminating the ordinance. Many of you have raised this as an important matter in the past and we hope you will be prepared to offer testimony to the City Council next month.

           

Municipal Impact Fees: Brief History & Pros and Cons



Background
 
In Maine, the Legislature granted municipalities the ability to enact Impact Fees in 1988. The entire statute can be viewed here. As of 2012 there were 28 states around the country that had adopted Impact Fee Enabling Acts. The list of states and their laws can be found here and a map showing states with Impact Fee enabling acts is shown at right.Map of States allowing impact fees In January 2008, Sanford adopted the "Sanford Road Impact Fee Ordinance" (note: "Roads and Traffic Control Devices" was one of the seven "infrastructure facilities" listed as eligible for impact fee consideration in Maine law).
 
Considerations to be Addressed Prior to Developing an Impact Fee Ordinance

~ Maine State Planning Office, January 2003, "Financing Infrastructure Improvements Through Impact Fees":

"There are a number of issues that a community should consider prior to developing an impact fee ordinance, aside from the detailed technicalities of drafting the ordinance and determining the fee. Because of the potential effects of imposing impact fees on the cost of new development, the decision to collect an impact fee is not one a community should rush into. There must be sufficient planning and analysis of the needs of the community prior to adoption of a fee system." A truncated chart of pros & cons follows. Please see pp.10-13 of the State Planning Office Manual for the full listing of "Potential Advantages and Disadvantages of Impact Fees."
 
 PROS  CONS
 Direct Benefit:
 Properly established,  impact fees implement a  policy where the  beneficiaries of a service  pay for the service.  There  may be cases that without  the funds provided through  impact fees, local voters  would not be willing to  finance improvements.    The assessment of impact  fees allows for improved  municipal service by  permitting facility  improvements to progress.
 May Not Cover Total  Infrastructure Costs:
 Municipalities will not be  able to shift the entire  burden of facilities  construction or i  improvements to those  responsible for new  growth.  Rarely will a new  facility or an improvement  to a new facility be built  solely to serve growth  without also either serving  some existing developments  or correcting existing  deficiencies in service. 
 Equity and Efficiency:
 Many deem impact fees to  be an equitable and  efficient manner in which  to raise funds for  improvements to public  facilities needed to  accommodate new  growth.  The link between  those who pay for the  improvements and those  who shoulder the costs for  the improvements provides  an equitable solution to  difficult and costly public  construction projects.    Once established, impact  fees are an efficient  method of collecting  funds.
 
 Difficult to Establish and  Administer:
 In order to establish a  defensible impact fee  system, the municipality  must have completed a  significant amount of  research and planning.    Impact fees must be based  on identified needs with, at  a minimum, a conceptual  plan of solutions and cost  estimates for that plan.    Administration of an impact  fee system requires long-  term maintenance of  segregated accounts, and a  bookkeeping system that  tracks contributions to and  withdrawals from these  accounts.
 Political Popularity:
 Impact fees are frequently  popular in localities that  have seen rapid growth  that causes a decrease in  the levels of service local  government can provide  without large expenditures  for facilities  improvements.  As an  alternate source of  revenue available to local  government, impact fees  remove some of the costs  of growth from the  taxpayers and shift those  costs to the individuals  directly responsible for the  new or improved facilities.
 Fees Depend on Rate of  New Development: The  revenue flow from impact  fees is as unpredictable as  the rate of new  construction.  As the  vagaries of the economy  wax and wane, so will the  annual total of fees  collected.  The construction  of one large development  may provide a large amount  in fees one year that is not  matched in subsequent  years.  This may lead to  some fluctuation in the tax  rate, as expenditures from  taxation must change to  reflect the amount of  impact fees raised.
 Inclusion of Approved but  Not Yet Built Projects:
 Impact fees may be  structured to include  previously approved,  unbuilt developments from  which exactions pertaining  to the public facilities to  be financed through the  fees remove some of the  costs of growth from the  taxpayers and shift those  costs to the individuals  directly responsible for the  new or improved  facilities. 





 
 Some Question the Equity  of Impact Fees:
 As much as there is a strong  argument for impact fees as  an equitable tool to shift  the burden of financing new  public facilities to those  who create the demand for  those facilities, there is an  argument that impact fees  create an inequity.  The  philosophy promoted by  some analysts is that  today’s citizens and  taxpayers are benefiting  from investments made by  previous taxpayers to  construct the currently  existing facilities and that  impact fees remove their  responsibility to provide for  future citizens.
 May Reduce Borrowing  and Debt Costs:
 By providing an alternate  mechanism for financing  public infrastructure  improvements, impact  fees can lower the amount  a municipality will be  required to borrow for  major capital projects.  If  an impact fee is collected  for a period of time prior  to the construction of the  project, the municipality  has opportunity to reduce  the principal being  borrowed by the total  amount of collected fees.    If the fees are being  collected after initiation  of the project, the amount  to be borrowed will not be  reduced, but a portion of  debt service will originate  from the impact fee and  not be incorporated into  the town’s tax rate.
 Effect on Low/Moderate  Income Housing Prices:
 When assessed on  residential development,  impact fees may have the  effect of increasing housing  prices or the rent necessary  to carry the capital costs of  new housing.  Some have  raised the concern that this  may result in new housing  being even less affordable  to low-and-moderate  income families.  This is a  legitimate concern when  there are impact fees  assessed throughout a  majority of the housing  market.  However, in Maine  the market for housing  usually encompasses more  than one municipality.  All  homes within that market  area are competing with  each other for buyers.
 

2007 Traffic Impact Fee Study for Sanford Maine
~ Wilbur Smith Associates, Portland ME, in Association with William J. Bray, P.E., Portland ME

In the introduction to the June 15, 2007 study, the consultants wrote that "Sanford is currently experiencing significant commercial and residential development pressures that will require expansion of their transportation system. The growth is forecast to continue, and in an attempt to equitably share cost among the users, Sanford is suggesting the adoption of a traffic impact fee program. 
They then referenced the SPO Manual and explained that "Impact fees are charges assessed against new development that attempt to cover cost of providing capital facility needs to serve the new development." They went on to state that "Their use has been promoted as a way for growth to 'pay its own way' by charging at the beginning for infrastructure needed by new development. Impact fees provide one way to help ensure that existing residents will not bear the cost of new facilities necessitated by new developments." The study, as a framework for future Council action, went on to describe a recommended process that could be implemented, maps of the effected roads, literature reviewed and an example road impact fee ordinance for the council's consideration.  Click on the image above to read the full study.


2008 Sanford Road Impact Fee Ordinance (Chapter 136)

Sanford's ordinance was adopted on January 2, 2008. Its purpose as explained in Section 1 is "to raise funds and deposit them into trust accounts to help pay the costs for future roadway improvements at identified locations. The proposed improvements have been determined to be necessary to provide capacity to accommodate new traffic generated by new development projects.... This ordinance will help to assure that each new development pays a proportionate share of the cost of improvements based upon the development's use of the new roadway capacity." The ordinance goes on to include definitions, procedures, fee calculations and effected roadway locations. It describes how fees are to be paid, where they are to be kept, how they are to be used and how fees may be refunded. There are also five exemptions to the ordinance listed and a section outlining how credits against fees may be provided in certain instances. Section 14 covers "amendments" and states that "This ordinance may be amended from time to time" by the City Council. Furthermore "amendments may include deletion of impact fee locations" when the Council determines "that all required capital improvements have been made." Also new impact fee locations may be added "after studies determine the need." The entire ordinance can be viewed here.

2014 Sanford City Council Order

On September 2nd, the City Council voted 7-0 in support of Order #14-132.02 to "suspend enforcement of Chapter 136, Impact Fees, until further action of the Council following a pending Public Hearing on September 16th." The City Council then held the Public Hearing on Tuesday, September 16th "to seek comments to consider the suspension or amendments to Chapter 136, Impact Fees, Pursuant to Council directives and time table." We expressed our appreciation for the recognition of the inherent problems with the existing ordinance and welcomed the timely review and possible amending or eliminating of the ordinance in the near future. Later that evening by a vote of 6-1 the Council voted to amend Order #14-145.09 and essentially stop the calculating and collecting of road impact fees from the October 7th effective date until the ordinance review is completed within six months, and City Council action is taken.

A second reading on the amended order is scheduled for the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 7th. The council will vote that night so it is important that any business or developer with an understanding of the issues and an opinion about amending or eliminating the existing Sanford Road Impact Fee Ordinance be present for the agenda item. The Growth Council and City Council are encouraging your attendance and feedback.


Micro-Enterprise Assistance Program



In June, the Sanford City Council voted to accept $100,000 in DECD grant funds which the City successfully competed for to help establish the Sanford Micro-Enterprise Assistance Program (MEA). These funds will be used to help very small companies in Sanford and Springvale expand their businesses or make them more sustainable through new equipment purchases, technology upgrades, or other improvements. To be eligible to apply, companies must:
  • have five or fewer employees
  • be owned by someone who meets low to moderate income guidelines
  • have been in business in Sanford or Springvale for at least the 6 months prior to application
Eligible companies can apply for up to $25,000 and must provide matching funds of at least 25% of the total project cost. The awarded funds will be in the form of a forgivable loan, which will be reduced annually and then completely forgiven after the business has remained open in Sanford/Springvale for three years. All funded companies must work on their business plan with the Small Business Development Center in Springvale, and participate in quarterly progress meetings with staff.  

A five-member loan committee has been formed and is finalizing program policy and procedures as required by the DECD. It is anticipated that applications for the program will be accepted starting later this month. We will be providing further outreach to the community shortly with a pre-application checklist and required forms. Meanwhile, if you or someone you know is interested and may be eligible, please let us know by calling 207-324-9155 or by email at info@sanfordgrowth.org.

 

Success Grows for Springvale Mushroom Company



Robert, Emily and John Sharood at Mousam Valley Mushrooms in Springvale, Maine
It is clear that when the Sharood family decided to go into business together, it wasn’t just about business – it was about family. John Sharood, father of business partners Robert and Emily and husband of business partner Sandra, says, “We started this company for a couple of family reasons. Our family has always been interested in food, nature and in mushrooms in particular, but mainly as hobbies and activities. For about ten years I ran companies in the Boston area, commuting 150 to 160 miles a day every day. It was fun, but I never got to see much of my family. When Bob and Emily began working, they struggled to find jobs that were more than just a job, things that would be creative. I was tired of commuting and looking for something to grow locally.”

With John’s extensive background in business and start-ups, and with his son Robert’s development of a method to grow mushrooms in a controlled indoor environment, their dinner time conversations led them to explore a compelling market opportunity that also appealed personally: the specialty mushroom business. Daughter Emily volunteered to help, bringing her marketing background to the table, and the three jumped into it full time starting in 2011, forming Farming Fungi, LLC, which trades as Mousam Valley Mushrooms and is based in Springvale, Maine. The company grows and harvests beautiful organic mushrooms year round in computer-controlled indoor growing environments that incorporate a repeatable and scale-able production flow monitored with process data tracking at every step.

Robert Sharood has a passion for sustainable farming, food safety, and fungi. His formal education focuses on business administration and he currently studies at Saint Joseph’s college, but Robert also studies and grows many varieties of mushrooms in their preferred natural environment: the great outdoors. He has translated the information he gathered from nature into a mushroom farming system which is the basis of the company's operations.

Robert now leads the Research and Development efforts and Quality Control protocol at Mousam Valley Mushrooms.  The company distributes three varieties of organic oyster mushrooms year round via Hannaford’s stores and Whole Foods Markets across New England and has grown from three employees in 2011 to 11 employees today.  Robert is currently planning expansions to the indoor mushroom farm, which will increase the quality, volume and variety of mushrooms produced.

A container of Mousam Valley Mushrooms forest medleyJohn Sharood is CEO of Mousam Valley Mushrooms.  John has a background in business consulting and new company start-ups. Prior to this, John led two management buyouts of high tech engineering companies.  He previously led several different enterprise software businesses for Invensys Software Systems (ISS), and led ISS’ Business Development effort.  Prior to joining ISS, John founded Invensys Network Systems in the home and commercial automation market. John was formerly Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Invensys Appliance Controls, and of Bowman Distribution, Inc.  

He began his career at GE, holding a variety of positions, including CFO of GE Power Controls.  He led GE’s International Audit Staff based in London, England and led operational consulting projects, and participated in numerous acquisition and divestiture transactions while at GE.

John is a graduate of GE’s Financial Management Program and earned a BA, Magna Cum Laude from James Madison College of Michigan State University.  He also holds an MSM in International Business from Purdue University and an MBA from Corvinius University in Budapest, Hungary. He is co-author of six patents in the controls automation field. He is also a volunteer member of the Facilities Committee of Maine Regional School Unit 21, and served as a publicly elected Director of RSU 21 for eight years.

Emily Sharood is currently Grow Manager at Mousam Valley Mushrooms as well as head of marketing for its products.  As Grow Manager, Emily ensures an optimal crop environment at all stages of the mushroom’s life cycle while ensuring a safe organic product that has been processed, handled, and distributed under federal and state regulations. She is currently beginning the process in seeking a graduate certificate in Food & Science geared specifically towards mushrooms at the University of Maine Orono.

Emily has a background in marketing and design with a Bachelor of Science Degree from the New England Institute of Art. She has designed all of the product packaging, promotional products, and vendor signage. She is currently working on the redesign of the website, and has also created a consumer network through social media. She is looking forward to leading in-store sampling of their current and new products in the Hannaford and Whole Foods Market stores in the New England region.

Read the full company profile on Mousam Valley Mushrooms on our website to learn more about this fascinating local business and to see photos of mushroom production in action!
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