Year End Town Manager's Message
The Defining Moments of 2022
Message from the Town Manager
By Tom Hall, Scarborough Town Manager
As we ring in a new year, I would like to take a moment to reflect on 2022 and the defining experiences affecting the Town of Scarborough and its residents.
Over the past couple of years, we have continued to respond to the ripple effects brought on by the pandemic. This past year was no different, and presented our community with housing-related challenges on a scale that was new to Scarborough. Funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance program, a well-intentioned federal program put in place to address the displacement of individuals and families, resulted in the temporary conversion of short-term lodging into longer term housing. While it provided housing for individuals struggling with homelessness and affordable housing, it also resulted in a significant increase in demand on our emergency services as a portion of the population required additional social services that largely did not exist.
Without these necessary support services in place, we saw a significant increase in the demand on our Police, Fire and EMS services, the likes of which we have not seen before. The Town has worked cooperatively with the innkeepers to return their operations to short term lodging, for which they are licensed and constructed, early in the new year. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the compassion and thoughtfulness that the Town Council has displayed in responding to this situation, and thank our public safety teams for their efforts over the last year as they managed these challenges with the utmost professionalism and empathy. In particular, our Social Services Navigator, Lauren Dembski-Martin, was invaluable in managing this challenging situation.
The Town of Scarborough has also faced the internal challenge of a changing workforce. Over the last year, we have seen more retirements than at any other time in my memory, in part due to timing, but undoubtedly hastened by the challenges of the pandemic. As a consequence, in the last 15 months we will have replaced nearly half of the senior leadership team and have seen hundreds of years of experience and service to the community of Scarborough transition into retirement. Make no mistake, these retirements were much deserved as three retirees had over forty years of service each to the Town. The Town of Scarborough is fortunate to have some of the finest staff and leadership I have had the pleasure to work with; quality that can often only come with tenure and experience. While I wish each one of our retirees well in retirement, losing the institutional knowledge and steady hand that comes with decades of experience would be a challenge in any organization. Meanwhile, I am grateful we have been able to recruit and promote some outstanding leadership and am enthusiastic to see what we will accomplish together and for the Scarborough community in the upcoming year.
Looking ahead, there are a few key areas of focus that will be addressed with the support of staff and guidance of the Town Council. We will continue to manage growth in our community through a thoughtful and thorough review of the policies and practices we have in place to ensure the pace of growth is in the community’s best interest. The Town Council, with the assistance from staff, will be revisiting our growth management ordinance in the early part of 2023. Managing the pace of growth is just one of multiple strategies that will be advanced simultaneously, including updating our development impact fees and heightening efforts around land conservation. I remain confident and hopeful that we are working towards the appropriate balance of interests and a shared understanding and vision of a complicated issue.
Part of managing growth and development in Scarborough is outlined in the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, developed over several years with public input and officially adopted by the Town Council in 2021. The Comprehensive Plan is a visioning document approved by the State, which is a prerequisite to a growth management ordinance and provides a blueprint on where we encourage growth and more importantly where we do not want growth to occur. In the end, our strategy to manage growth must be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and must balance competing priorities. In the upcoming year we expect to make substantial progress on the implementation of our plan through committee initiatives and council action. We encourage the community to follow the progress and participate in the implementation.
I hope all of our residents have had a meaningful year, a celebratory holiday season, and I wish you and yours a happy new year.