Proposed increase in general assistance, new pickleball courts, electric vehicle charging stations on Belfast Council agenda

Tue, 09/19/2023 - 11:45am

    BELFAST — The Belfast City Council will hold its regularly scheduled public meeting Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m., to consider a proposed increase in general assistance, new pickleball courts, and electric vehicle charging stations, among others. 

    There will be a presentation on the 2023-2024 General Assistance Ordinance and state derived maximum benefits for general assistance requests, according to Belfast City Manager Erin Herbig’s premeeting report. 

    The statewide general assistance program reportedly offers different areas of the state different levels of financial assistance; an amount determined by local surveys for costs including housing, food, and utilities. The State of Maine sets news maximum limits each year, in addition to a general assistance ordinance and appendices for the respective area to consider adopting. 

    Maximum limits for Belfast have increased from last year and City staff have recommended the adoption of the increased limits in addition to recommending the adoption of the updated ordinance and appendices. According to Herbig’s report, the State reimburses the City 70 percent of any general assistance provided. 

    No Council action is required, and a first reading of the suggested changes is the next item on Herbig’s agenda. 

    Additional details about the proposed increases are available to read in the full premeeting report.

    The Council is also being asked to consider the construction of additional pickleball courts at the City Park; a request put forth by the Belfast Pickleball group. The group approached the Parks and Recreation Department about their desire to add four more pickleball courts. After discussion with Parks and Rec Director Zach Dozier, Mayor Eric Sanders, City Councilor Neal Harkness, and others, it was determined that the proposed courts could be built across the road from the existing pickleball and basketball courts. 

    The pickleball group has had preliminary site plans drawn up, and has received estimates for costs associated with paving, fencing, and surfacing the proposed courts. 

    According to Herbig’s report, Parks and Rec Director Dozier has voiced concerns regarding a lack of adequate parking for the existing pickleball courts, and has suggested the construction of a new parking lot at the current halfway-point cut-through of the one way road at City Park. This would require the removal of several trees. 

    Members of the Belfast pickleball group have gathered the signatures from current users of the existing pickleball court, who were reportedly supportive of the request. The group plans to contribute and raise funds to pay for the costs associated with the new courts. In addition to community financial support, Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge has contacted the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands liaison for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, who indicated that the project could qualify for LWCF funding, according to Herbig’s report. 

    Members of Belfast Pickleball will make a presentation about the plan, and Dozier will be available at the meeting to answer questions. 

    The Council will also hear a request to replace the existing Clipper Creek Level 2 electric vehicle charging station, located at the Beaver Street parking lot, with a ChargePoint 4021 Level 2 charging station. The original charging station was funded through a grant from the non-profit organization A Climate To Thrive, however the Clipper charging station was a non-networked station, meaning the City has been unable to assign any costs to users of the station for the electricity used to charge their vehicles. 

    The Clipper charging station reportedly broke recently, in multiple ways, leaving it unsafe or impossible to charge vehicles there. 

    The cost associated with the new ChargePoint station is estimated at $4,000 for the purchase of the unit and $1,500 for the installation. Funds for the project would be taken from the City’s Energy Savings Capital Reserve Account, which has a current balance of $78,894.

    For additional details, or to view the complete agenda, see City Manager Herbig’s premeeting report.

    Erica Thoms can be reached at