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01/10/2018

Manager proposes having Community Services director oversee Fort Williams Park

The town is looking to have the director of Community Services also be responsible for oversight of Fort Williams Park.

A revised job description is in the works, but the result would bring the town's only park -- known worldwide for its landmark Portland Head Light -- under the auspices of the town's provider of recreational services.

Matthew Sturgis, town manager, outlined the idea for the Town Council on Jan. 8, 2018, days before the town was scheduled to interview for a new director of Community Services. "We've had a couple of challenges that took place over the past year, with Russell Packett, who was our Community Services director, and his untimely, unfortunate passing," Sturgis said.

The other challenge, Sturgis said, is managing the ever-growing use of Fort Williams Park.

Last fall town councilors discussed with members of the Fort Williams Park Committee the possibility of creating a new position of director of Fort Williams Park. However, funding a new position, as well as the staffing and infrastructure to support it, is always a concern, Sturgis said.

"One day on the way home I was thinking, 'why don't we look into blending this into the Community Services Department?' "

Different town departments handle different components of park operations, Sturgis said. The director of Public Works oversees day-to-day matters and provides staff support for the citizen park committee. Community Services, which operates the town pool and fitness center and offers a variety of educational and recreational programming for youth and adults, already has office space, computers, support staff and software.

"I thought, 'It's a town park.' Towns have parks-and-recreation departments," Sturgis said.

Councilors at the Jan. 8 meeting said they supported the concept, and Council Chair Jessica Sullivan said she particularly liked the idea of combining the positions. Adding the term "park" director to the job title, however, might be a better way for out-of-towners to identify the park contact, she said.

Jamie Garvin, another councilor, added that an important sentiment expressed by members of the park committee was that the director have "boots on the ground" in the park. "Whether those responsibilities are spread out across several different people, I'd hope we can retain that sort of objective in concept some way," he said. "We need to have somebody be there who has time and focus and energy on seeing what's happening and experiencing what's going on there," Garvin said.

Sturgis said he envisions the director focusing on the park during the busy spring, summer and fall seasons, and on Community Services needs during the colder months. "I also know at Community Services they have programming needs that aren't being met," Sturgis said. "We do have seniors that we should be providing more programming for, and other age groups that we could really diversify what we provide at Community Services." The new director would also oversee the citizen Community Services Committee.

The job description will likely be finalized after the new Community Services director is hired. "It's a work in progress," Sturgis said. He said he is continuing to work with town staff to identify which park components should continue to managed by Public Works, Facilties, and/or Community Services. "We're just trying to figure out and navigate as we go forward where things should stay, but we want to do it in a cost effective manner, but also in an effective manner," Sturgis said.