Our community has accomplished so much in 2019! Here is our "Top 10" list of Biddeford accomplishments, by City government and beyond, to celebrate.
10. New Technologies Improve Efficiency and Safety in City Departments
One of our most important jobs in government is to search for new efficiencies in our work to help free up additional time to focus on the needs of our residents. In 2019, we implemented many beneficial new technologies that have improved our workplace. Here are some of the notable changes:
- At the Police Department, the installation of a new time clock system for employees is now directly connected with the City’s payroll system. When employees clock in and out for their shifts, the information they enter is automatically transmitted to payroll, cutting back on the redundancy of manual entries.
- The Finance Department implemented a new general billing system this year that centralizes miscellaneous billing within Munis, the City’s financial management program. The new system is more efficient and produces more accurate financials.
- At Public Works, new technology was implemented to automate the trash trucks. Riding on the back of a trash truck can be dangerous, and manually picking up trash bins required our employees to be working close in traffic. With the new automated arm system, the employee that previously worked on the back of the trash trucks is kept out of harm’s way and was reassigned to help manage other critical tasks in the department.
9. Community Participation
Biddeford has always had wonderful community members that are dedicated to making Biddeford a better place. In 2019, the Recreation Department has been especially thankful for the passionate volunteers that stepped up to complete improvements on the skate park. Over the past several years, Andrew Syska has taken the lead in redeveloping the skate park at Rotary Park and Clifford Park. This past year he returned to Rotary with fellow skaters and volunteers to improve the park. Their efforts have not only improved the dated park but also saved residents tax funds with all the time and talent provided. Andrew and his supporters intend to continue this work in 2020.
8. New Opportunities for Youth Involvement
This summer, the first Biddeford Youth Advisory Council took office. The BYAC was established to give Biddeford youth a voice in their local government. The members of the group advise the Biddeford City Council on issues that affect youth in the community and complete service projects that make Biddeford a better place to live.
In October, the BYAC hosted a downtown cleanup activity and presented recommendations to the City Council on what they believe is needed to help reduce litter in the downtown area. The group also partnered with Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center after learning more about homelessness in their community. The group held a bake sale at Biddeford’s Tree Lighting in December with all proceeds being donated to Seeds of Hope. To help bring awareness to the issue, they passed out information on homelessness in Maine along with each item that was sold. Following the bake sale, they launched a winter apparel drive to collect coats, socks, and accessories that will also be donated to Seeds of Hope.
We have had a great group of students this year that are very passionate about making a difference in their community. We look forward to continuing to grow the group in 2020!
7. Downtown Aesthetic Improvements Continue
Over the past several years, a significant amount of work has been completed to improve the downtown experience, and those efforts continued in 2019. The second phase of the Main Street Sidewalk Project was completed this spring. During this project, sidewalks on both sides of Main Street between Elm Street and Adams Street were demolished and replaced with new sidewalks. New lighting, landscaping, planters, and other street amenities were also installed. The changes were not just for aesthetic purposes: the bump-outs added at crosswalks help slow down traffic and make it easier for pedestrians to be seen by oncoming vehicles when crossing the street.
This year, the City Council provided additional support for the downtown holiday lighting, and the results made Main Street look more beautiful than ever! Thank you to Heart of Biddeford, La Kermesse, and UNE Volunteers for putting up the decorations.
There were also several new murals added to the downtown in 2019 with the assistance of Engine. The previous mural on the side of New Morning Natural Foods was replaced with a depiction of Biddeford’s mills at night. A brand new mural with an international connection was also added on York Street over the summer. The mural depicts a boy speaking to a friend on the phone, and there is a coordinating mural across the world in Iraq.
6. Sustainability Improvements
This year, the City implemented several new programs that served to eliminate challenges with waste disposal in our community. One very noticeable change was a new ordinance that went into effect in July that prohibited Biddeford retailers from providing single-use plastic bags to customers. In addition to reducing pollution associated with plastic bags, the change was instituted to help cut back on contamination in the City’s curbside recycling program.
Additionally, the Public Works Department launched a 1-year compost drop-off pilot program this past spring. Residents can collect food scraps and other compostable items at home and bring them to the bins near the entrance of the Recycling Center. The organic waste is collected twice per week by ‘We Compost It!’ and is transformed into nutrient-rich soil. Diverting more food waste from Biddeford’s waste stream reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Since the program began in May, two to three 225-pound totes have been taken away to compost each week, keeping nearly 6 tons of food waste out of landfills.
Finally, in 2019, the City completed work on its LED streetlight conversion project. This project was possible because the City acquired Biddeford’s streetlights from Central Maine Power and installed new fixtures. LED lightbulbs are more sustainable than older lighting technologies because they use up to 75% less energy and need to be replaced less often. They also provide better quality light. On top of the other benefits, buying the streetlights and converting them to LED provides the City with about $150,000 in annual savings in lighting costs.
5. Engage 2 Empower Leadership Academy
This year, our Human Resources Department established the Engage 2 Empower Leadership Academy. A select group of City employees were nominated by their supervisors to participate in a set of leadership training activities over the course of six months. The trainings were led in part by the City’s department heads, and community leaders and organizations were also invited to various sessions to share their specific expertise.
The participants left the experience with a more complete understanding of how they can be leaders within our organization. They also gained new skills on how to recognize and lead different personality types and learned more about Biddeford’s past. At the end of the program, the participants developed a proposal for a new program or recommendation that would make the City a better place. They integrated the knowledge that they gained from the trainings into their recommendations and presented the final projects to City leaders. The participants all agreed that the program was a success, and we are excited for the next group of employees to complete the trainings!
4. Celebration of our Community Continues to Spread Nationwide
We are always excited to see news about Biddeford’s growth spread. Beginning in 2018 and continuing in 2019, the accomplishments of our community’s local businesses have popped up in nationally-distributed magazines and websites. Here are just a few of the examples:
- At the beginning of 2019, Biddeford was selected to compete to be featured on The Small Business Revolution thanks to Heart of Biddeford’s application to the show. Biddeford progressed into the Top 10 towns under consideration and earned a visit from the show’s host and production team. Throughout the competition, Biddeford’s story of revitalization gained national attention from the Small Biz Rev team, and local businesses like Dafni Greek Gourmet, Banded Brewing and Part and Parcel were spotlighted on show’s social media pages. While our city was not selected for the small business revitalization prize, the community rallied around our local businesses throughout the competition and made a national name for Biddeford.
- Biddeford was featured in Travel + Leisure, a national travel magazine: “This Small Town in Maine Should be on Every Food Lover’s Bucket List”
- Angelrox Clothing was featured in Forbes: “Made in America. Angelrox Clothing Keeps It Down Home In Maine”
- Palace Diner was named one of the Top 5 New England Diners by AAA.
- FED Guide (standing for Find, Eat, and Drink), which makes guidebook for foodies in major cities throughout the country, published a guide for dining in Biddeford.
- MSN named Coletti’s Pizza Factory the “Most Iconic Pizzaria” in our state.
- An article in the Christian Science Monitor highlighted Biddeford’s transformation since the closure of MERC and the City’s previous work with the Orton Family Foundation.
- Perhaps most importantly, CNBC reported that the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford job market was named the 5th hottest job market in the US for 2020. The growing number of job opportunities in our community is one of the best reasons to call Biddeford home.
3. City Hall Clock Restoration
Back in 2018, thanks to the support of the community’s daily votes, the City Hall Clock Tower came in third place in the nationwide Partners in Preservation: Celebrating Diversity on Main Street campaign. Heart of Biddeford received a $150,000 historic preservation grant from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to make repairs to the clock and clock tower. That grant was used in 2019 to hire Balzer Family Clock Works to restore the clock to working condition.
A large portion of the Balzers’ work was to convert the electrified mechanical timepieces back to their fully mechanical operation as they were originally designed. Many of the original mechanical components, including the pulleys, weights, and pendulum bob, were missing and were replaced. The Balzers also installed an automatic winding system for the weights so that staff will not have to manually wind the clock. Additionally, the clock’s four dials and hands received a facelift. The new hands are made of redwood and were gold-leafed to be more visible against the new glass dials.
The grant also included funding to repair the woodwork surrounding the clock. The remainder of the project will be completed by June 2020. Thank you again to Heart of Biddeford and all of the community members that voted to make these repairs possible at no cost to taxpayers!
2. City Receives Millions in Federal Grant Funding
In 2019, the City of Biddeford was selected to receive two major federal grants that totaled over $10 million in funding.
The first was a $7.5 million grant received in May from the Federal Aviation Administration that required no local share from the City of Biddeford. The project outlined in the grant application enhances airport safety by reconstructing the runway, runway lighting and markings, improving runway safety areas and drainage, and preparation of a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan for compliance with stormwater standards. These necessary infrastructure improvements will improve the safety and efficiency of airport operations and assist the airport in complying with FAA standards. Work on this project is expected to start in 2020.
In October, the City of Biddeford received a total of $3,246,744 in federal grant funding to establish a program that will help remove lead paint from Biddeford homes. The grants were distributed through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Lead Hazard Reduction and Healthy Homes. The goal of the program is to make 135 low- to moderate-income housing units lead safe and to conduct 130 free healthy home interventions in the city’s downtown census tracts. In addition, the program coordinator will conduct outreach and education activities for downtown residents and will provide free Lead Worker training and certification to area residents.
Thanks to the federal funding that was received, the City will be able to make safety improvements both in our housing and at our airport without the use of taxpayer dollars.
1. Future Growth Anticipated for the 2020s
3 Lincoln Street
In April 2019, the City of Biddeford entered into a Master Plan Agreement with B.E. Fitler, LLC for the development the parcel of City-owned land located at 3 Lincoln Street. Designs for the site are currently under review. The parcel of land will include a 640-space parking garage that will be built in conjunction with Biddeford RiverWalk Community 1, LLC without the use of property tax dollars (visit our website to review the details of the financing for this project). The most recent renderings for the site depict a walkable campus-type design, with five buildings surrounding the parking garage. The developers, Jim Brady and Brian Eng, will seek to incorporate a mixture of residential, retail, office, hospitality, education and service uses to create an economically vibrant, urban-style mixed-use destination. The design for the site is also set to include a public park located along the Saco River. The City will seek public input on the design for the park at a future date.
In April, the City Council approved a proposal for an ADA Access and Easement Agreement and Credit Enhancement with Draft Room, LLC to renovate the Riverdam Mill. Building permits for the first phase of the project were issued this month. Once complete, the mixed-use project will include 13,300 square feet of commercial space, as well as 70 units of housing. Ten percent of those housing units will be restricted for the next 20 years as affordable housing. Per the agreement, the City will receive permanent easements to the land between the Riverdam building and the river wall to expand the RiverWalk, as well as permanent ADA access for the RiverWalk via the building’s elevators. The RiverWalk project will open up public access to the river leading to the park at 3 Lincoln Street, as well as provide necessary pedestrian connections through the downtown. Financing for the RiverWalk expansion is included in the City’s collaboration with Biddeford RiverWalk Community 1, LLC. The Lincoln
In January of this year, permits were issued to LHL Holdings, LLC for the first phase of work on a redevelopment project of the 165-year-old Lincoln Mill. Upon completion, The Lincoln will feature 148 apartments with deluxe amenities, as well as a boutique hotel featuring a rooftop pool with a bar. The project will also include an 11,000 square-foot Quest Fitness gym, a 5,000 square-foot Batson River Social Club restaurant and 7,000 square feet of rentable commercial space.