Minutes of the West End Neighborhood Association (WENA) Meeting
Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Reiche Community Room
Board members present: Jennifer Defilipp, Rosanne Graef, Ian Jacob, Christine McHale, Michel Michaud, Elizabeth Parsons, Jeanne Swanton, Clifford Tremblay,
Others present: Jenny Anastasoff, David Argitis, Josh Benthien, Rodents Biacho, Webb Ferrall, Steve Graef, Peter Hall, Dennis Chip Martin, Heather McCargo, Brian McNiff, Janet Mishoe, Lin Parsons, Josh Soros, Dick Stevens, Penny Stevens, Bryan Van Dussen, Tony Zeli
The meeting was called to order at: 6:40 PM.
Secretary’s report: The minutes from January’s meeting were accepted as written.
Treasurer’s report: Since the treasurer could not be present, the secretary made a brief report on her behalf as follows. The general WENA account balance is $111.84. The swim fund account balance is $5,417.01. This report was accepted as given.
Board members’ reports: Rosanne Graef noted that she and Liz Parsons had met with representatives of Lift 360, the organization that helped fund and organize the Portland Public Library’s Choose Civility initiative. The two will be meeting with Lift360 representatives again on Tuesday, February 17th to set dates for a Train-the-Trainer series that would help WENA carry on some of this work. About five people responded to Rosanne’s invitation to participate and she stated that there would be opportunities beyond the training series for those interested. More information will be forthcoming at WENA’s March meeting.
Rosanne also announced that photos from the City’s Meeting Place initiative of about three years ago were available if anyone wanted to take some. The photos were all taken in the West End as part of an art display held at Maine Irish Heritage. Any photos members do not want will be displayed in the Reiche community room.
Ian Jacob announced that, on February 25th at 5:30 PM, the Housing and Community Development Committee will hold a public forum on the City’s housing policies. The meeting will take place in room 24, basement level of City Hall. Ian will attend.
Neighborhood watch report: Sarah Colton was not able to attend. Christine McHale reported that she will meet with Lt. Glen McGary, newly appointed head of community policing. He has expressed an interest in working with WENA so Christine plans to have a general conversation with him.
Officer David Argitis reported that the past month had not raised many issues of note. A few burglary problems persist. For example, the new West End Place construction site was burgled. He recently met City Councilor Dave Marshall as part of a new policing effort that encourages more interaction amongst police officers and Council members. Since the Council hears a lot from residents they can be good information conduits to the Police Department.
A general discussion followed Officer Argitis’s presentation. A question was raised about traffic problems created by the huge amount of snow Portland has received. Traffic flow has been affected as has the ability of drivers to find adequate parking spaces. Officer Argitis suggested that these matters be addressed to the department of traffic and parking. Ian Jacob noted that he discovered a number of businesses in the West End do not have street numbers posted on their doors. He observed that this could be a safety problem for police and fire department officials who might be responding to a call but unable to locate the right property. Officer Argitis agreed. He asked Ian to send him the list of properties so that the police department can contact the businesses about this.
Old Business: None.
New Business: Josh Benthien of Northland Enterprises (www.northlandus.com) made a presentation on the company’s proposed redevelopment of the former Century Tire property on Marginal Way. He observed that the company had originally envisioned pursuing a larger development project. But the soils in the area are bad and potential financial constraints caused them to reduce the size, at least initially. They remain interested in a larger project, but any expansion will depend on market forces over the next few years and on the status of the Midtown project. Mr. Benthien and his partner hope to begin the project in May. A general discussion followed his presentation.
Heather McCargo of Wild Seed Project (www.wildseedproject.net) introduced the group to efforts towards propagating more native plants since these have been extensively replaced by exotic plants and by the built environment. The Wild Seed Project is working with students at the Conway School in western Massachusetts on a Portland Pollinator Corridor Vision Plan. The students’ objective is to create a design manual or how-to document for people to learn how to bring in native plants to their surroundings. Such plants would help ensure that pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and birds could sufficiently exist within this urban setting. The students held a design charette at Reiche earlier in February and will return on March 10th to present their preliminary ideas. More information on the Conway School and their student projects is available here: www.csld.edu/project/student-projects/green-cities/. A general discussion followed Ms. McCargo’s remarks.
Ian then presented some concepts for establishing new committees and asked for the group’s participation as well as their ideas. All the committees would help WENA raise money and community awareness of our activities. The suggested committee are as follows:
- Online Presence Committee. This committee will be charged with updating WENA’s website and Facebook page. Josh Soros will head the committee. Clifford Tremblay and Dick Stevens will work with him.
- Outreach Committee. An inventory of establishments within the West End’s boundaries revealed 100 business and other organizations. This committee will be charged with cultivating relationships with these organizations. Ian Jacob, Liz Parsons, and Michel Michaud will work on this committee.
- Yard Sale/Event Committee. This committee will explore possibilities for a neighborhood yard sale or other such event that would help raise funds for WENA’s general operating expenses. Penny Stevens expressed interest in working on this assignment and said she would ask for Judy Witherell’s help.
- Restaurant Night Committee. The purpose of this committee would be to help support local restaurants, especially in the slow off season, and to gain some support from them in return.
- Parks/Gardening/Pollinator Committee. Rosanne Graef will head this committee which oversees initiatives already underway in Clark Street, Harborview, and Taylor Street Parks. She also reported that she and Clifford are working with an online yard mapping tool developed by Cornell University. Their objective is to enlist West End gardeners to identify the features of their plots (native plants, water sources, etc.) so that we can gain an overview of already existing connections. This can help with the pollinator corridor vision. Assisting Rosanne on this committee will be Clifford, Peter Hall, Sandra Kynes, and Liz Parsons.
- Reiche Community Center Committee. This committee would have responsibility for working with the Recreation Department, Portland Adult Education, and the Reiche School to help make the best use of the community room and pool. Rosanne gave a brief history of the community center’s existence since the Portland Public Library moved its branch out of the room a few years ago. She said that few Rec Dept and Adult Ed activities take place in the room even though there is great interest and need in the West End for such programming. She urged the group to help ensure that the community not to lose the space. Jeanne Swanton agreed to work on this committee; Mitch Mason was recommended in absentia.
A general discussion followed Ian’s presentation. Rosanne suggested forming a committee that would be a liaison with the City since there are so many meetings and projects taking place that affect the West End. A discussion ensued as to the best way to share liaison duties; no specific agreement was reached.
Rodents Biacho, former WENA board member, announced that he is moving out of the West End due to increased cost of living in this area. The group expressed regret at this and wished him well.
A 50/50 raffle fundraiser for WENA was held. All winners donated their prizes back to WENA which netted $31.75.
The meeting adjourned at 8:09 PM.