2015-04-24 / In the News

News Briefs

Heroes of last month’s fire honored for bravery

David Hamilton, Michael Libby, Jason Plummer and Jake Shaw were presented with certificates of gratitude by Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton and Fire Chief B. Michael Thurlow last week at an April 15 town council meeting for their role in responding to a fire March 25 near the intersection of Gorham Road and Mussey Road.

Thurlow said Plummer and Hamilton were at the Eight Corners Market just before 11 a.m. on March 25 and noticed the fire shortly after it broke out in the garage of 223 Gorham Road, a home owned by Gloria Heatley. A truck in the garage, where Heatley’s son, Craig Pooler, operates Tailor Done Lawn Care, reportedly caught fire and the flames quickly spread to the adjacent home. Plummer and Hamilton saw the flames, went to the home and began knocking on doors. They were quickly joined by Shaw and Libby. The group was able to get Heatley and her dog out of the home before responders arrived. The home and business were totally ruined and Heatley suffered a broken arm and cuts and bruises.

Thurlow said he will nominate the quartet for next year’s Citizens’ Merit Award, an annual award handed out to members of the public who provide heroic acts during an emergency. Thurlow said the incident happened too late to be considered for this year’s awards ceremony, which took place April 17.

“For these four folks to step up and do what they did certainly is commendable. We wanted to make sure the public here tonight knew that and commend them for their actions,” Thurlow said.

Moulton handed each of them a certificate for “extraordinary bravery and personal sacrifice.”

“The family cannot show enough gratitude for what you men did that day,” Pooler said.

Pooler said a lot of people would have looked the other way or gone about their business, but Hamilton, Libby, Plummer and Shaw didn’t and responded to what could have been a much more tragic event.

“You guys were incredible. I won’t ever forget it,” he added.

Town Councilor Shawn Babine said a response like that shows that no matter how big Scarborough gets, it still retains that community feel.

Beach parking subject of further examination

With several weeks until the summer beach season begins in earnest, the Ordinance Committee will convene next month to address parking issues at Higgins Beach and Pine Point Beach.

Ordinance Committee Chairman Kate St. Clair said a meeting was scheduled April 23 with owners of the Clam Bake, Snow’s Canning and Ready Seafood to discuss parking along Pine Point Road from the overpass to the rotary by East Grand Avenue/Jones Creek Drive.

Parking along that stretch is permitted, but property owners have complained the parking there is interfering with their businesses. Committee members have voiced concern about the safety of parking on the shoulder of the roadway, which is often used by beachgoers when the town’s parking lot at Hurd Park is full.

St. Clair said Town Councilor William Donovan is looking into the prospect of adding metered parking to Pine Point Road and other areas of town. The committee will readdress the topic Tuesday, May 19 at 9:30 a.m.

That morning, the committee will also review a proposal for a parking change at Higgins Beach. In January, several residents came before the ordinance committee to complain that problems with indecent exposure, public urination, public drinking and loitering have not subsided on public parking spaces on Bayview Avenue.

Although the concern is not shared by all residents of the beachside neighborhood, a group was formed to look into the issue. St. Clair expects the group to have its final meeting shortly.

Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton, who met with the group at its last meeting, told the Leader earlier this month, “much of what has caused angst with many of the folks is not really illegal or enforceable. Some of it is a nuisance. Some of it is not what you would want to be taking place on your front lawn.”

“Hopefully by the next meeting we will have a proposal to bring to the ordinance committee,” St. Clair said. “The great thing is everyone at the table is there for the same reason and that is a love of Higgins Beach.”

Several proposals have surfaced and need to be ironed out. In February, the ordinance committee rejected two proposals from the Higgins Beach Association, one which would have eliminated the general parking and expand the handicapped parking and another that would have retained public parking and make it available for Scarborough senior citizens with beach passes.

Town Manager Tom Hall said not all of the ideas that have been brought may be possible. Reducing the speed limit to under 25 mph, for example, is not possible outside a school zone. Changes in stopping traffic, such as adding a three-way stop, would have to undergo engineering studies. Rerouting traffic, he said, would be a Town Council policy decision.

“I am hoping to have that meeting in the next week because we need help from your staff as to if we can even do some of these things,” St. Clair told Hall.

Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth enter into assessor agreement

A week and a half after their counterparts in Cape Elizabeth approved the idea, members of the Town Council voted to enter into an agreement to share an assessor with Cape Elizabeth through June 30, 2016.

Cape Elizabeth Assessor Matthew Sturgis will take on assessing duties for both towns, something Town Manager Tom Hall said will save money and maintain the quality of assessing in Scarborough. The need for a new assessor in Scarborough arose in February when Bill Healey, who had been at the post for a year and a half, left to take a job in Lewiston, where he lives.

Sturgis will be in Scarborough twice a week and the town will be responsible for 40 percent of his salary and benefits, or $52,938. The Scarborough assessing office will still be staffed with Assistant Assessor Susan Russo and administrative assistant Sara Salisbury.

“The function of this working is the staff we already have,” said Town Council Chairman Jessica Holbrook.

Although Hall went through the traditional recruitment process and came away with two viable candidates and looked into contracting with Cumberland County for assessing, partnering with Cape Elizabeth still made the most sense.

“It is cost-effective and allows us to maintain the excellent staff we have in place,” Hall said. The arrangement also allows Scarborough to readdress the situation over the next couple years when Hall expects there will be a lot of retirements in the assessing field, but for right now the partnership has strong support from both the Scarborough Town Council and Cape Elizabeth Town Council, which unanimously supported it April 6.

“It’s an exciting opportunity in many different ways, for the towns, for me personally and professionally. To be involved with this in both communities is pretty exciting,” said Sturgis, a New Gloucester native who serves as chairman of the Gray Town Council.

Sturgis said he has had a good relationship with Healey and former Scarborough assessor Paul Lesperance, as well as Russo and Salisbury.

“I’ve spent most of my assessing career in the area, so I am fairly familiar with the diversity of the Scarborough market,” said Sturgis, who is going into his 15th year as assessor in Cape Elizabeth.

It is the diversity of the Scarborough market, with deep agricultural and waterfront communities, that intrigues and proves a challenge for Sturgis.

The agreement with Cape Elizabeth and contract with Sturgis, Hall said, is “self-perpetuating unless either party wants to get out of it.”

Hall said Sturgis brings along with him a “deep knowledge” of commercial tax base and assessing waterfront homes.

“These two facts alone establish Matt as an ideal candidate,” Hall said.

Town Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina, a real estate broker who owns the Caterina-MacLean Group, has also been impressed with Sturgis.

“I have dealt with Mr. Sturgis on a number of cases on a professional manner and I think he is very professional and helpful.”

Town Councilor Peter Hayes said the arrangement “very well could be a great model to look at as municipalities look to shared service in the future.”

“I am very pleased with where we are ending up,” said Town Councilor William Donovan. “I think we are all looking to save money. This is a way to do it, without a long-term commitment.”

Sturgis said his schedule between the two communities hasn’t been finalized yet, but he intends to have regular time in Scarborough to attend to the assessing needs of just that community.

“Predictability for folks is important,” he said.

– Compiled by Staff Writer Michael Kelley.

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