The owner of Fogg Lighting, a store across from one of Portland’s largest homeless encampments at the Marginal Way Park and Ride, emailed city officials, Mills Administration members, and state lawmakers Friday to inform them that he found an abandoned “Zombie Slasher” machete on his store premises.
“Attached to this message is a photograph of a recovered machete, aptly named ‘The Slasher,’ which was found on the premises,” Sanford Fogg wrote in the email, which was addressed to Portland’s city manager, mayor, the entire City Council, and other public officials.
“Not surprisingly, this discovery has not contributed to a heightened sense of security within our community,” Fogg wrote.
The machete was apparently abandoned by one of the several dozen vagrants that have taken advantage of the government-created open air drug market.
The machete seen in the picture attached to the email is the Texsport “Zombie Slasher” machete knife.
“The presence of such a dangerous object raises concerns about the safety and well-being of all employees and customers. It is imperative that you address this social issue rather than turning a blind eye to its reality,” the email continued.
Fogg requested that “appropriate actions be taken to close the encampment now,” adding that “Our community’s safety should be of utmost importance.”
Jeremy Bate of Marvin Design Gallery, also on Marginal Way, replied to the email, writing that he “concur[s] with all of Sanford’s concerns for all involved, including those housed in the encampment.”
“Our employees are very concerned with the aforementioned happenings that are occurring directly in front of our place of business on a regular basis,” Bate wrote. “The safety and well-being of our customers, employees and those housed in the encampment at this point is paramount and should be a top priority. It seems to be getting more out of control as the hours and days pass.”
Jason Biggs, Vice President of Business Development at VIP Tour & Charter Bus Co., which is also near the encampment, responded to the email chain, claiming that at their location they found a loaded shotgun in July.
“Here at our location we found a loaded Shotgun, just after the 4th of July, we reported it to the Portland Police Department, they arrived and took the weapon,” Biggs wrote.
Fogg has been emailing city officials for months about safety and hygiene concerns due to the Park and Ride encampment, including with pictures of obviously distressed and potentially overdosing encampment residents.
In another Friday email to city and state politicians entitled “Urgent Concerns Regarding Public Safety and Homelessness in Portland,” Fogg wrote that there was an individual who appeared to be under the influence of drugs frightening one of his customers and blocking their way while brandishing a needle, “which he waved in a threatening manner for all to witness.”
Used needles can carry blood-borne pathogens, such as Hepatitis-B and HIV, and a mere stab would be enough to infect an employee or customer if the needle had been used by an individual carrying either virus.
On Aug. 16, Fogg wrote emailed city officials to request the city’s assistance for an immediate clean up due to human excrement being found in his parking lot.
In response, Portland City Councilor At-Large Pious Ali wrote:
“Dear Fogg- I am sorry you have to del [sic] with this. I am not sure what the protocol is on this, so I am copying the city manager’s chief of staff Ms Dena Libner, so that they will give their input on what can or cannot be done.”
Libner replied by referencing in earlier email in which she told Fogg that the city would be unable to allocate public resources to the maintenance of private property.
She said that city attorneys had advised her that the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that “municipalities expending tax revenues to maintain private property would represent an ‘unconstitutional appropriation of public funds for the benefit of private property owners,’ and that it may therefore constitute a violation of the Maine Constitution.”
In other words, the city of Portland claims that it would be unconstitutional to use city resources to clean up excrement deposited on private property as the result of the city’s decision to allow an open-air drug market to flourish in front of that property.
“While this doesn’t resolve the challenges businesses and property owners are experiencing in the vicinity of encampments, I hope it helps to explain why the City is unable to fulfill Mr. Fogg’s request,” Libner wrote. “We are hopeful that the Encampment Crisis Response Team’s focus on the Park & Ride encampment in September will help reduce its impact on businesses in the area.”
Portland’s Encampment Crisis Response Team (ECRT) is currently focusing its efforts on moving individuals from the city’s largest homeless encampment along the Fore River Parkway into housing.
“The ECRT is solely focused on encampments that have been scheduled for removal. Because their work is focused on moving individuals into shelter or housing before the scheduled removal date, participation on the ECRT is limited to direct service and outreach providers,” Libner wrote in a July 20 email to Fogg.
“Members of the public with concerns about the impact of nearby encampments should continue to share that information with either the relevant City department or the City Manager’s office,” she wrote.
“At this time, we have determined that the most effective way to minimize impact on residents, businesses and neighborhoods is through the strategy of the ECRT,” she added. “While progress will be slower than anyone would like, it will prevent individuals from simply relocating to another area.”
After the city cleans out the Fore River encampment on Sept. 6, the ECRT will move its focus to the Park and Ride encampment.
On Thursday, the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) cleared out a homeless encampment on the edge of Deering Oaks Park, telling the campers that they had to move away from the I-295 off ramp for safety reasons.
“It’s kind of a hectic situation right now because not a lot of people have rides to go anywhere,” one of the campers told CBS13. “There’s almost no place to go now.”
The Park and Ride encampment also sits directly next I-295, on state property, and on Thursday the Maine Wire observed several campers heading to Marginal Way.
An MDOT spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email asking if the department plans to clean out the Park and Ride encampment.