WESTBROOK — The City Council gave preliminary approval Monday to a number of items, including a parking scofflaw ordinance, the replacement of a retaining wall on Saco Street and an extension of the senior tax break application process.

The parking scofflaw ordinance allows police to tow repeat violators right away when necessary.

“The current ordinance requires that in order for (us) to take action against a repeat violator of the city parking ordinance, whether it’s overnight or winter ban, a letter be sent to the owner, and we have to wait 30 days for a reply. That is not conducive to getting cars off the street during critical months in the winter,” Chief Janine Roberts told the council

The change allows police to tow an illegally parked vehicle if the owner has three or more parking tickets outstanding for 10 days. Getting cars off the streets is most critical in the winter, Roberts said, when emergency vehicles already have a hard time navigating through the streets and cars.

“If someone had four tickets and parked legally that’s fine. It’s when they are in violation that fourth or fifth time we have that discretion to remove that vehicle by towing it. Ultimately, the benefits are getting these violators off the streets. This money does not come to the police department or anything,” Roberts said.

Councilors also gave preliminary approval to replacing the retaining wall at 64 Saco St., which was built in the 1980s by the Maine Department of Transportation.

Once final approval is given, Skid Steer Services of Naples will be paid $67,795 to remove the failing wall and replace it with a “natural looking” wall, according to Public Services Director Eric Dudley.  DOT will refund half of the replacement costs to the city.

“This was brought up about seven years ago at council,” said Council President Gary Rairdon said. “I am happy to see it back up and something getting done, (the wall) doesn’t look so safe.”

The project was sent out to bid a few years back, but bids came in too high, Dudley said.

The council Monday also gave preliminary approval to extending the senior property tax break application deadline until June 1, and June 1 will continue to be the deadline each year.

The program allows Westbrook seniors who have been living in the city for the past 10 years to get a property tax rebate as long as they applied for and received the state senior tax break.

“I’d like to thank the previous administration for their work in creating this,” Mayor Mike Foley said. “Reopening it means that we will be able to help more of our seniors.”

Foley advocated for reopening the break as part of his mayoral campaign, noting that only $21,809 of the $50,000 that was budgeted for the program was used. With  the extended deadline residents can still tap into the remaining half of the budget for 2018.

The program, for now, will continue to have a budget of $50,000 yearly and work on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“Speaking with some people I found that the average benefit of the break is $400, which is huge for our seniors,” Rairdon said.

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