New council gets to work in Orono

By Adam Quandt
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The new year brought a new mayor and almost entirely new council to the city of Orono.

Mayor Dennis Walsh, newly-elected councilmembers Victoria Seals and Richard Crosby II and returning councilmember Aaron Printup met for their first regular city council meeting on Jan. 9, where the new members of the city were sworn in to take their places in the government.

As opposed to heated council meetings, filled with tension and disagreement that often took place throughout the past year, the Jan. 9 meeting was filled with laughter and jokes between mayor and councilmembers.

However, all laughter and jokes aside, the nearly-new council got right down to business at the council meeting.

The council’s biggest decision came on the matter of the videotaping of Planning Commission meetings for public viewing, something that had been widely debated by the past council.

Planning Commission Member Kevin Landgraver first approached the council to express that the Planning Commission was “sort of against” the videotaping of the meetings.

“One of the concerns is that one of the things people fear most is public speaking,” Landgraver said. “It’s already stressful coming up and addressing people…To know that it’s videotaped might be a little more intimidating.”

Landgraver stated that he “sensed this was a losing battle” and therefore made one request, that the council look at the amount of views the newly recorded Planning Commission videos have after some time in order to justify the cost of videotaping the meetings.

“I like that idea,” Printup said in reply. “I would be just simply curious to know that.”

After the council stated their reasons for the need to videotape the meetings, they passed the motion with a 4-0 vote.
The council also addressed the level-three sex offender residency restrictions, for which discussion began in November.

City staff noted that the ordinance is not a land use ordinance and therefore did not require any form of grandfathering stipulations, thus meaning the ordinance is immediately enforceable.

“This is something that we did not create the wheel on,” Walsh said. “We are being proactive to make sure that we don’t try and do stuff after issues get in our community, but before it actually gets to our community.”

The ordinance will prohibit any level-three sex offender from establishing permanent or temporary residence within 2,000 feet of any school, day care center, park or playground.

After opening up discussion the public, the council passed the ordinance with a 4-0 vote.

During the meeting, the council also addressed a number of smaller “housekeeping” text amendments to ordinances such as the requirement of recreational fire permits, which the council eliminated with a 4-0 vote.

Walsh said that more of these “housekeeping” items would appear more frequently during city council meetings, as the council attempts to clean up unnecessary city ordinances.

The next Orono City Council meeting will be held on Jan. 23, in the council chambers inside Orono City Hall at 2750 Kelley Parkway.