AUGUSTA COMPREHENSIVE PLAN COMMITTEE
Seventh Meeting – Public Safety, Opioid Crisis and Mental Health
Monday, April 29, 2019 at 6pm
Meeting called to order at 6:03pm.
In attendance: Heather Pouliot, Karen Foster, Kim Silsby, Kevin Lind, Brad Sawyer, Duane Scott, Justin Frank, Bill McKenna, Bob Corey, Lori LaRochelle, Matt Nazar, Jared Mills, Roger Audette, Susan Parks, Courtney Allen, Roberta Record, Cheryl Clukey, Pia Holmes, Ryan Gary, Susan Williams, Stanley Koski, and others not identified or signed in).
Welcome remarks and committee introductions:
Members of the public are welcome to share their ideas regarding the future of the any aspect of the city as it relates to public safety, the ongoing national opioid crisis, and mental health matters in our community.
Overview of the 2007 comprehensive plan as it relates to public safety in Augusta by Matt Nazar:
2007 comp plan primarily addressed traffic concerns and violations. It did not speak to the opioid crisis and/or mental health issues in the community.
Presentation by Jared Mills, Chief of the Augusta Police Department:
- The APD responds to every call that comes in, no matter what.
- The opioid crisis is one of the biggest issues they are dealing with in the community.
- 2012 had the highest rate of pharmacy robberies. Since then there have been less prescriptions of oxycontin. As a result, that is when we started to see an increase in heroin and it continues to increase.
- The APD has increased the amount of drug-related arrests.
- APD has been aggressive in having a police presence in our schools through the D.A.R.E program and resource officer.
- Increased coordination with available resources and the state is helping tremendously in addressing this epidemic.
- Example of Operation HOPE.
- The treatment aspect of the 3-prong approach has been lacking – hopeful that is improving.
- 3-prong approach: enforcement, treatment, and education.
- Calls for mental health issues are increasing.
- APD has 1 mental health worker assigned to ride with officers – this is funded by DHHS (state).
- Used to fund multiple positions.
- The APD is using more communication with groups in the community who are available to help.
- Traffic is still a huge issue.
- Fortunately, APD gets a grant to help provide enforcement opportunities on traffic violations.
- Otherwise it would be a challenge to do this.
- City’s traffic calming committee is helpful in addressing traffic concerns – made up on policie, fire and public works.
- APD is always trying to improve pedestrian safety.
- Police Department building is in disrepair.
- It is a 1950’s old Naval Reserve building.
- City moved into it in 1998.
- Was never meant to be a public safety building and because of that it has many logistical challenges for being a facility focused on public safety.
- Will require a significant amount of money for renovation, probably better to build a new facility to accommodate the space needs for proper public safety operations.
- It is important to consider that the police station is not a responding point.
- APD will respect the decision of the voters for a new building and location.
- Community policing is working and important.
Presentation by Roger Audette, Chief of the Augusta Fire Department:
- The renovated and expanded Hartford Fire Station will be open soon.
- The eastside of the river is next in need to be addressed for a fire facility.
- The station on Bangor Street is a small site and limited in expanding.
- Consideration for somewhere out on Route 3?
- The fire department (city) did a site study back in 2008, and it is probably time to do a new one to take into consideration the growth of the city (new hospital, bridge, etc.).
- This comp plan should consider asking the city to require safety kits is all public locations, especially with the threat of mass casualties.
- These kits should have a tourniquet, AED and CPR, narcan, and epi-pen at public places.
- These kits can save lives when time is of the essence.
- Chief explained that everyone who had a tourniquet at the Boston bombing lived.
- Unfortunately, with mass shootings, tourniquets are very important.
- It might also be worth highlighting the importance of emergency management and planning for the city.
- Augusta is a dangerous city in regards to codes and violations.
- Many places are in need of repair, even on basic life safety requirements such as egress windows, smoke alarms, etc.
- The comp plan may want to encourage the city to adopt a policy requiring all new homes to have a sprinkler system installed.
- Scottsdale, AZ and Gorham, ME have done this.
- Having a sprinkler system greatly reduces the likelihood of a fatality and damage of a home.
- The AFD responded to 6,500 calls last year. Of which, 5,000 were for an ambulance and 1,500 for fire.
- The highest overdoses one year was 90 or so individuals in the city.
- Augusta is a geographic challenge in that we don’t have a sister city of comparable size, so regionalization can be a challenge – however we should always try to do it when we can.
- AFD is seeing more calls related to mental illness and fires.
- AFD could use more personnel for the department.
- They do not have any retention issues.
Public opportunity to identify concerns/suggestions that they want addressed within the comprehensive plan:
Susan Parks, ward 2 resident: are there any needs for law enforcement personnel?
Chief Mills: no, not at this time.
Courtney Allen, eastside, student at UMA, and affiliated with James’ Place: recovery ready communities; stigma training for all city positions/officials; recovery coaches, partner with the state; recovery community center, suggest to locate in hardest hit areas; harm reduction services; city request narcan in public spaces; employment, job readiness programs; education, recovery center at UMA; housing, recovery residences; National Association of Residency Housing certification; bring people on recovery into schools to mentor; provided handout.
Roberta Record, westside resident: should consider codes vs. historic preservation.
Cheryl Clukey, westside resident: recovery residences and group homes should be considered in more appropriate locations, not just residential.
Pia Holmes, westside, school board: kids coming school without the appropriate home structure; creates more issues with drugs, mental health and overall health.
Susan Parks: how do we education our neighborhoods to address an issue of drugs in the neighborhood? Gave a great example of helping a troubled neighbor (might want to use this story in the comp plan as an example of a resident doing what it takes to make the neighborhood a better place, even when faced with challenges. She provided a letter via email).
Committee discussion on public safety, and other related items:
Heather: can we include in the comp plan suggestions for best locations for recovery homes.
Kim: we have lost the balance in the community; there are so many issues in our schools that it can be overwhelming; how do we reclaim our community?
Brad: people need to be more connected. How do we put this in the comp plan?
Other committee matters.
Next meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 6, 2019 at 6pm at City Center. The focus of the public hearing will be on housing, development, and neglected buildings.