Cape Elizabeth to combine park, community services posts

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CAPE ELIZABETH — A new Community Services director will also serve as manager of Fort Williams Park. 

The Town Council discussed what the expanded job may look like during a Jan. 8 meeting.

Councilors also approved a recommendation from the Fort Williams Park Committee to prohibit unleashed dogs from the park’s multi-purpose fields for the seven months of the year the fields are mostly used for athletics.

During discussions last fall, the council began considering a park manager position to serve as a point person for everyone with a stake in the park, including the Public Works Department, Fort Williams Park Committee, the Fort Williams Park Foundation, and the Portland Headlight Museum.

But after former Community Services Director Russell Packett died last month, Town Manager Matt Sturgis decided it would make sense, both pragmatically and financially, to transfer responsibility of the park’s overall management to Packett’s successor. 

Community Services has existing office space and administrative support staff in place that will be needed for the additional responsibilities, he said.

Sturgis said Community Services also has programming needs that are not being met, which could be aided by the use of park amenities, such as the athletic fields and tennis courts. 

“When something like (Packett’s death) happens, you find it a challenge, but you also find it as an opportunity,” he said. 

The opening was posted internally Dec. 21, 2017. Sturgis was scheduled to hold four interviews Jan. 11 with interested applicants, including Kathleen Raftice, who was appointed acting Community Services director after Packett’s death.

“I think we have the talent in house,” Sturgis said. “Kathleen has done an awesome job since she’s been there, and we have three other folks who’ve applied as well who all have strong resumes, too.” 

Sturgis said he has support for consolidating the positions from several department heads, including Public Works Director Bob Malley, Facilities Director Perry Schwarz and Portland Headlight Museum Director Jeanne Gross. 

A revised job description states the position is responsible for “managing, supervising, developing, implementing and coordinating the activities and operations of the department, including all Community Services facilities and Fort Williams Park.”

Councilor Jamie Garvin said as the town moves forward with the idea, he hopes to maintain the sentiment that the advantage to creating a Fort Williams Park manager position would be having someone with “boots on the ground in the park,” as the council discussed with the Fort Williams Park Committee last year. 

“It doesn’t concern me how the department is organized so much, as long as that need is met,” Garvin said. “… We need to have somebody there that has the time, focus and energy to see what’s going on there.” 

Chairwoman Jessica Sullivan said her only concern would be using the title Community Services director, because it may be confusing for those unfamiliar with the town to know who to contact for park information. 

“I like the concept of combining the positions, but … we have people from all over the world that want something at Fort Williams and it might be hard for them to know who (to) contact,” she said. 

Funding for the Community Services director is included in the town’s budget. Sturgis said an increase in salary to compensate for increased responsibilities would likely be funded by the Fort Williams Park Committee and Portland Headlight until July 1, when the town can work the new position into its 2019 fiscal year budget.

Sturgis said details, such as a concrete job description, title and pay, would be worked out once a finalist is selected. 

“Hopefully we’ll have the position filled fairly soon,” he said. “After that, we’ll work on that job description based on my conversations with the department heads that have been involved, specifically with park-related issues.” 

Unleashed dogs

The Fort Williams Park Committee recommended the town extend the park’s off-leash dog area, but prohibit unleashed dogs from the park’s multi-purpose fields from April 1-Nov. 1. 

The multi-purpose fields are behind the park’s maintenance garage, near the children’s playground and are surrounded by the off-leash dog area.

The extension of the off-leash area would include a portion of “The Green” to a line from the southerly end of Battery Blair extending easterly to the Cliff Walk. 

The changes passed by a 4-1 vote, with Sullivan opposed. She said she’d rather see all dogs, leashed and unleashed, banned from the fields year round.

The council agreed to ask the Ordinance Committee to consider how leash laws are applied to other areas in town. 

Dogs are already required to be leashed on groomed or regularly maintained areas of municipal property, except for Fort Williams Park’s unleashed dog area, the Cape Elizabeth Poor Farm, and the portions of Lions Field outside Little League Field. According to the town’s website, when the ordinance was last updated in 1990, other popular places for dog walking, such as the Gull Crest fields and Winnick Woods, were not municipally owned and therefore not addressed.

Sturgis is expected to present the council with suggestions for specific direction from the committee at the council’s next meeting on Feb. 12.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, where a new Community Services director will also have the responsibilities of a park manager.

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