Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Manchester considers ordinance to keep sex offenders away from schools, parks
MANCHESTER — Town officials are considering banning sex offenders from living near schools and ballfields in town.
Manchester is the latest area municipality to consider imposing restrictions on where sex offenders can live. The Augusta City Council last month banned sex offenders who have committed acts against children under the age of 14 from living within 750 feet of public or private schools and municipal property, such as parks and ballfields, where children are the primary users. City councilors in Gardiner considered, but rejected, a similar proposal late last year. The proposal in Manchester is similar to the ordinance adopted in Augusta, according to Town Manager Patrick Gilbert. He said it is being discussed by selectmen and he is reviewing a draft ordinance. The proposal was brought up by Selectman Maynard Whitten, who said the town should adopt the ordinance in order “to keep child sex offenders away from kids.” If it moves forward, the proposed ordinance would be the subject of a public hearing and would ultimately have to be approved by residents at the annual Town Meeting in June. Gilbert said the residency restriction would not be retroactive, meaning sex offenders who already live near parks or schools would not have to move. The ordinance would only restrict where sex offenders could live if they move after the proposed ordinance were to be adopted. Gilbert speculated the only parts of town where sex offenders would be banned would likely be around Manchester Elementary School and its nearby ballfields, and maybe an area around a small private school, Maple Tree Community School, at the corner of U.S. Route 202 and Pelton Hill Road. A 750-foot area extending from Manchester Elementary School and the ballfields surrounding it would appear likely to include part of the neighborhood along McArdle and Cross streets, as well as a short section of Route 17 near U.S. Route 202. A 2009 state law allows municipalities to restrict where certain sex offenders live. The law says municipalities may prohibit sex offenders convicted of Class A, B or C crimes committed against minors younger than 14 years of age from living within 750 feet of a public or private elementary, middle or high school or a municipally owned property where children are the primary users. Municipalities cannot ban sex offenders from living within their borders. Keith Edwards — 621-5647