City hopes to have workfare in place this summer: Council also plans for a moratorium on medical marijuana facilities.

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WESTBROOK — The City Council has adopted new ordinance language to add a workfare component to the city’s General Assistance program.

The council on Monday unanimously approved the ordinance amendment, which is in line with the Maine Municipal Association’s Model General Assistance Ordinance. Councilors also approved a first reading of a moratorium on medical marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries.

The workfare program, which was first discussed May 15, was introduced by Mayor Mike Sanphy. Adopting the model didn’t establish a workfare program, but it has given the city the authority to do so. According to City Administrator Jerre Bryant, the city hopes to have a workfare program in place by July 1.

Establishing a workfare program would require people on General Assistance who are able to work to do work for the city and for local nonprofit organizations. Workfare programs are designed to help people gain work experience and skills and become self-sufficient.

Bryant said many other communities, including Portland, have workfare programs. He said Westbrook wants to establish one so it can help people reach the point where they don’t need to rely on General Assistance. 

The city will spend over $736,000 on General Assistance for the next fiscal year. According to Sanphy’s initial budget presentation this year, the city’s General Assistance spending has “more than doubled in the last five years.”

The workfare program, once created, will be for anyone who’s eligible. According to Bryant, specific details regarding eligibility and work sites have yet to be determined.

Councilors on June 5 also approved a first reading of a moratorium on medical marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries. The issue was first discussed in a workshop an hour prior to the regular council meeting.

The 180-day moratorium will be enacted if given final approval at the next City Council meeting on June 19. It was recommended by Sanphy in response to the growing number of requests to establish medical marijuana facilities in the city.

According to a memo from City Planner Jennie Franceschi, Westbrook doesn’t have performance standards or location requirements in place for medical marijuana facilities. The moratorium would give the city time to set these standards and requirements so facilities don’t become located near residential areas.

People designated as caregivers who grow medical marijuana in their homes or their patients’ homes will be exempt from the moratorium as well as from future standards.

If the City Council approves the moratorium, the Planning Board will be tasked with creating standards to recommend to the council.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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