2012-04-05 / Front Page

Economic group faces changes

Proposed budget would be reduced 25 percent
By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


The office of the Scarborough Economic Development Corporation will be moving from Black Point Road to a vacant office in Town Hall in an effort to better prepare the corporation for its future. (Michael Kelley photo) The office of the Scarborough Economic Development Corporation will be moving from Black Point Road to a vacant office in Town Hall in an effort to better prepare the corporation for its future. (Michael Kelley photo) After nearly 30 years of working on encouraging economic development in town, the Scarborough Economic Development Corporation is not looking at its history but rather at the direction it is going in the future.

In an effort to restructure the role SEDCO plays in the future of the town, the corporation’s budget is proposed to be reduced by $58,800, or 25 percent. The budget would go from just less than $234,000 to $175,190.

“It is something different,” said SEDCO director Harvey Rosenfeld. “This is not a cut, although we are asking for less money. This is really a collaborative effort (to plan for SEDCO’s future.)”

As a result of the restructuring, Rosenfeld, who has led the corporation for close to 25 years, will take a $35,450 pay cut and work approximately 24 hours a week.

While he would only be working three days a week if the proposal passes, Rosenfeld said he will still be committed to economic development in Scarborough.

“In terms of development and investment, there is still a lot of things I’d like to see happen,” Rosenfeld told the Finance Committee during an April 3 budget review meeting.

Also during the meeting, the Scarborough Public Library budget, which includes increases for staff and electronic readers, was discussed.

As part of the SEDCO restructuring, which Rosenfeld said was a collaborative effort between himself, members of the corporation’s board of directors and Town Manager Tom Hall, SEDCO will be moving its offices from the old Oak Hill School at 29 Black Point Road to space across from Hall’s office in Town Hall. The corporation had once been at Town Hall, but was moved out to make way for other municipal uses.

“This gets us back into Town Hall,” Rosenfeld said. “It not only saves us money, it gives us more involvement with the town and more involvement with the town manager.”

Hall said this move should not be seen as a move by the town to get away from investing in its economic future.

“Economic development is a priority of mine. This should in no way suggest there is a lack of interest there,” Hall said.

Rosenfeld said the new structure of SEDCO would still be an effective way to encourage development while saving cost.

“I’ve been very impressed by the board and its approach at looking at new, innovative ways to maintain the quality and integrity of the SEDCO department and not lose sight of the future,” said Judy Roy, chairman of the Finance Committee who, in her duties as a town councilor, serves as a liaison to SEDCO.

Finance committee member Ron Ahlquist said he supports the SEDCO restructuring and bringing the corporation back to Town Hall. He said it would be “foolish” to get rid of SEDCO, which has been suggested by one member of the Town Council.

“I am a big SEDCO fan,” he said. “I think you’ve done a wonderful job. I certainly give you a lot of credit.”

His fellow Finance Committee member Jessica Holbrook also applauded the new approach for SEDCO.

“I think it is a fantastic plan. I like you coming back to Town Hall. You certainly have a place in this town,” Holbrook said.

As town leaders, Rosenfeld and the SEDCO board review the future of the organization. Nancy Crowell, director of the Scarborough Public Library, and her staff are preparing to bring the library into the latest technology wave by investing in electronic readers.

As part of the library’s $968,700 budget – of which $839,300 would be appropriated by the town –Crowell is asking for $5,000 for electronic readers. Another $17,500 for electronic readers, their associated equipment and new electronic books is being requested as a capital equipment purchase.

In 2009, Scarborough Public Library joined with 199 other public and private libraries across the state to offer patrons the ability to download a pre-selected list of e-books and audiobooks.

Library Trustee Larissa Pratt said that system proved to be too cumbersome to use for both patrons and staff. The new approach to providing e-readers, she said, will allow the librarians to select the titles patrons are looking for and offer books that are compatible with a variety of electronic reading devices, which can, like books, be borrowed from the library. As part of the plan, the library intends to eventually install a kiosk that would allow patrons to browse electronic book offerings while in the library.

“We need to keep up with our technology if we are going to maintain our relevance,” Pratt said.

Outside of investing in new electronic reader devices, Pratt said the library is also investing in its employees.

The budget includes an additional $29,500 to fund the second year of the pay parity program to ensure the library staff is being paid a competitive wage compared to librarians in other public and private libraries in the area. This, Pratt said, helps “attract and retain employees.”

Pratt said she and the other library trustees are proud of the library staff and the service they provide.

“Their dedication to service, their creativity and their professionalism is really top-notch,” Pratt said.

The library budget, she said, is by and large flat funded, except for the parity adjustment. Modest increases are budgeted for general maintenance and grounds maintenance.

Library Director Nancy Crowell has asked for $25,000 in capital improvement project funding to finance the design specifications and possible preliminary cabling for a transfer switch for an emergency generator. Next year’s capital budget would include the $75,000 for the purchase of the emergency generator.

Town Manager Tom Hall said the idea is not for the library to replace the high school as the emergency evacuation shelter, but rather be used for small-scale emergencies.

Crowell said with the generator the library could be used as a center to dispatch volunteers when a disaster has been declared in town. Over the years the library has played an active role in planning and preparing for large-scale and small-scale emergencies through the Scarborough Emergency Management Agency.

The Finance Committee will discuss the budgets for community services, municipal information systems and the school department when they convene next at 8 a.m. on April 10.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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