Scarborough Town Council: 6 candidates vie for 3 seats
SCARBOROUGH — Six candidates are competing for three seats on the Town Council in this year's election.
Three of them, including two incumbents, are campaigning for two three-year seats.
Three others, including familiar and unfamiliar faces, are seeking to complete the final year of a term left vacant by the resignation of former Councilor Shawn Babine.
Kerry Corthell, 58, moved to Scarborough two years ago from Ohio, although her family has lived in Maine for several generations.
She has been a bank trust administrator, working with technology and people to design systems that manage trusts. She has two bachelor's degrees from Ohio State University, in psychology and women's studies. Corthell has served on the Economic Development Committee and Charter Review Committee.
Corthell said as a senior bank business consultant, she helped departments manage the information technology budget, experience which, she said, would help her when working on the town's budget.
"We never had enough money to do everything we wanted to do with technology," she said, adding that establishing priorities was very important.
Corthell said she would also like to see the School Board take a harder look at the budget and the council be more involved in the school budget process.
Corthell, who does not have cable television, said she was surprised to discover Scarborough does not have more documents and videos of meetings on the Web and wants to see the town better utilize its website.
She said she would like to see more communication between town employees and the community, especially when considering new projects and potential impacts to the environment.
"I'd like to see a requirement that new development have open space. I'd like to see how effective our current (open space) requirements are," she said.
She said she also wants to see the Conservation Commission more involved in reviewing new projects in town.
Corthell said she does not agree with the process or the town's decision to swap land with the Lighthouse Motel on Pine Point. She said the residents who expressed concern were not treated with the respect they deserved.
She said she favors a ban on smoking on all town-owned beaches because smokers do not police their own litter.
Councilor Judy Roy, 67, is a retired registered nurse and has lived in Scarborough for 58 years. She has served 12 years on the council, from 1990-1999, then again from 2008 to the present, and, most recently, has served as chairwoman of the Finance Committee and the Energy Committee, as well as on the Higgins Beach Committee.
Roy said the coming budget year will really depend on who is elected governor.
"If they reduce taxes at the state level, it means cuts at the local level," she said, adding that public safety and public works are vital services that have to be balanced against the needs of the schools.
She said the council needs to think globally, considering all aspects of the budget as well as all the people in town who are affected by increased taxes, including the elderly who may not be able to afford the increases.
Roy said she thinks the town does well balancing economic development with protecting natural resources. When considering possible uses for the Scarborough Downs property, she said she would like to see a convention center and community center.
The process the council used to swap land with the Lighthouse Motel on Pine Point went very well, Roy said, adding that the outcome was gorgeous. She said there were people in town who wanted to be able to vote on every issue, but that desire requires more of a selectman-town meeting form of government than a council-manager government like Scarborough's.
Roy said the School Department should hold on to young, energetic teachers and that tenure for teachers needs to end. She said the town's per-pupil cost is something to be proud of and that throwing money at educational problems would not help.
"It isn't the building that makes the school, it's the teachers," she said.
Councilor Michael Wood, 52, has lived in Scarborough since 1992 and he and his wife of 28 years have three daughters who went through the Scarborough school system. Wood is an operating supervisor for the Federal Aviation Administration, where he oversees air traffic controllers.
He served for nine years on the Planning Board, several as chairman, and is seeking a second term on the council.
Wood said the budget has been and will continue to be the most important subject for the council. He said it is important to slow down the growth of town government as the revenue sources, such as new businesses, also slow.
"We saw the economy in tough shape and set a goal of a zero percent tax increase," Wood said of his first term on the council, adding that for two of the three years, the council did not approve an increase.
He said he would like to see the Scarborough Downs property zoning examined so it might mature into a multi-use development.
Wood also said the process the town went through for the land swap at Pine Point was "open and full of energy." He said that he erroneously believed the process could be completed in one meeting, but quickly changed his mind when it became clear there were citizens who wanted more discussion.
"At the end of the day, what we have there is substantially more attractive than what was there," Wood said.
One of the most challenging aspects of the coming year, Wood said, will be balancing the budget with the need to replace Wentworth School.
"We need to put together an innovative, cost-effective building we can sell to the citizens in a referendum," he said. "It's going to require a tax increase. We need to prepare citizens for that prospect now."
Jim Benedict, 62, has lived in Scarborough for nine years and owns Wood Construction, from which he is semi-retired.
He served as an elected Town Meeting member in Massachusetts, where he lived before he and his wife, Claire, moved to Maine. They have three adult children and two granddaughters. He has been a member of the Lions Club for 30 years and is also a Scarborough Police Department volunteer.
Benedict said the three biggest issues for Scarborough are taxes, Wentworth School and retaining businesses.
"It breaks my heart when I go to South Portland and there's the sign out for Cracker Barrell," he said. "That was our fault."
Benedict said that while drawing business to town is great, keeping businesses is vital. He said the prospect of Scarborough Downs moving to Biddeford is very bad.
"That is a big tax for the town going south," he said. "That, again, is our fault."
When working on the budget, Benedict said he would like to make a list of what is necessary and what is desirous. He said the Wentworth School is on the list of necessary needs and would like to consult with experts to determine if the school should be renovated or replaced.
"We need to see realistic figures as far as what something costs," he said. "We need to have those figures before we vote on things."
Benedict said he would not have voted in favor of the land swap with the Lighthouse Motel and that the outcome was "rather lopsided."
"We didn't get a nickel's worth of candy for a nickel," he said. "I think the town gave itself a bad deal."
Benedict said he would like to see the town operate more openly on deals like this.
"People want to know what's going on. If everything is above ground, there's no need to hide behind a door," he said.
Iver Carlsen, 57, is a nine-year resident of Scarborough, who moved to town from Norway.
An avid surfer, Carlsen has a bachelor's degree in forestry and a master's degree in education. He was an administrator for the technical high school in Brunswick before he retired.
He has served on the Conservation Commission, the advisory board for Community Services and was a volunteer for Maine Healthy Beaches. He has three grown children.
Carlsen said as an administrator in Brunswick, he was in charge of balancing a $1.5 million budget, which, he said, he did by listening to everyone, determining their wants versus their needs, and making decisions.
He said he does not think the School Department should continue to cut staff.
Carlsen said he moved to Scarborough for the beach access and believes they must be protected. He said he would like to see the town continue to develop small and large business in the area, but to do it with sensitivity toward the environment.
He said that if, in the future, the town engages in a swap like the one at Pine Point, he would like those involved to feel as though their concerns were heard.
"You need to honestly sit there and listen. Don't formulate an argument as the person is speaking," Carlsen said. "It's not OK for the town to give away property or rights of the 20,000 people in this town."
Carlsen said he would be in favor of a smoking ban in all public places, including the beaches. He said he participated in a recent cleanup of Pine Point Beach, where volunteers collected nearly 1,000 cigarette butts.
He said the balance between a strong business base and education system in Scarborough is vital during difficult financial times.
"We've got to keep that motion going," he said. "These things are still important."
Richard Sullivan, 45, has lived in Scarborough his entire life, is a career firefighter in Portland and, most recently, a new father: he and his wife of 22 years, Amanda, had their first child a month ago.
Sullivan, who was a councilor from 2006 to 2009 and has been on the Planning Board since 2009, owns RJ Sullivan Landscaping.
He said difficult budget choices are going to have to be made.
"I'm going to go in there and come out with a budget with a 3 percent increase or less," he said, adding that some of the items listed for replacement on the five-year capital improvement plan might have to be postponed.
Sullivan said the biggest issue the town would deal with this year will be the Wentworth School building. He said he would like to see the building committee put together a "Chevy" plan, not a "Cadillac" plan, to present to voters. He said in the meantime, it's important to make the building safe by going out to bid for necessary repairs.
Sullivan said the town's Comprehensive Plan make it easy for the council and the Planning Board to specify where businesses could be established, while protecting the town's natural resources.
He said the process the council went through during the Pine Point land swap could not have been improved upon and that those who had concerns were able to voice them.
"The process was not flawed at all," he said. "And what we gave the town is beautiful."
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org