SCARBOROUGH – A three-way race has emerged to fill the Scarborough Town Council seat of Shawn Babine, who resigned from the position on July 25.

Former Councilor Richard Sullivan Jr., who served on the council from 2006 to 2009; longtime construction professional James Benedict, who ran unsuccessfully for a council seat in 2007; and Iver Carlsen, a former school administrator, a strong advocate for the environment and a member of the Conservation Commission are in the running to finish out Babine’s term, which expires in November 2011.

At a candidate forum at Scarborough Town Hall last week sponsored by the Scarborough Chamber of Commerce, Benedict, Carlsen and Sullivan weighed in on a number of issues currently before the town.

One such issue is the possibility of the Scarborough Downs horse racing operation moving to Biddeford, which will vote on the proposal in November. An approval would open up a valuable piece of land in Scarborough. With its proximity to Payne Road, Haigis Parkway, Route 1 and Interstate 95, the property has huge development possibility for the town.

Carlsen said whatever happens at the property, he hopes the Conservation Commission is actively involved in looking at development to determine its impact on the environment. He said low-income housing could work on the site.

While he didn’t give specific examples on how he would like to see the property developed, Benedict said it is important for the town to make sure the process of developing the site is not so complex that it doesn’t entice business to move there. Benedict also bemoaned the possibility of a business leaving Scarborough.

“It is incumbent on us to work with businesses to draw them to Scarborough and keep them in Scarborough and not have a set of rules that are too stringent,” he said.

Sullivan said he would like to see a revival of Scarborough Village, a proposal that would create a mixed-use village center on the Downs’ property.

Regardless of what happens on the Scarborough Downs property, the town will, come spring, be well invested in creating a municipal budget.

When asked if they would target cuts to specific departments, the candidates instead discussed departments they would spare from a budget cut.

“I think there are things that need to be kept in place hell or high water,” Benedict said, indicating that education and public safety, including the police and fire departments, always have to be funded appropriately.

Sullivan, a career firefighter with the Portland Fire Department, said he, too, would protect school, police, rescue and fire department funding, but would ask all departments to eliminate unnecessary spending.

In terms of finding a solution to the longstanding structural issues at Wentworth Intermediate School, Carlsen said he would support replacing the existing school.

“I would support a renovation at the school assuming we could do it cost effectively, or a totally new building, because it is unacceptable how we have that building right now,” he said.

While searching for a permanent fix at the school, Sullivan said, school administrators and town officials must do whatever is needed to make the school safer and healthier for its students, teachers and staff.

Benedict said, given his construction background, he would advocate the town hiring a structural engineer to go into the building and come up with a report of the issues at the school that is easily understood by the general public.

“At the end of all this, we decide by virtue of what [the structural engineer] comes up with, what needs to be fixed, how long the fix is going to last before something else breaks down, or if we should go with a new school,” he said.

Carlsen said the construction of a new Wentworth Intermediate School could be the perfect green building opportunity and a way the town could continue its focus on environmental consciousness.

“Environmental issues are dear to my heart with my work in forestry and with the environment,” Carlsen said. “I think the town of Scarborough has shown itself as a leader in this and I would encourage us to continue working on that.”

Additional efforts could include looking into wind or solar power sources, ridding the town of plastic bags or making Wentworth school a green project when it gets remodeled or rebuilt.

Benedict also praised the environmental work Scarborough has done.

“Scarborough is on the forefront of being as energy conscious as possible. I think we have the right people in the right places to continue that,” he said.

Sullivan said his voting record during his term on the Town Council reflects his interest in environmental consciousness. An idea he would like to see in the future is the use of energy audits for the town to determine how much energy is used and how that number could be reduced.

In the end, Sullivan said, he is interested in another year on the council to continue serving his community.

“This is my hometown. I love Scarborough. I grew up here,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of things go on in town. I’ve seen vegetable fields turned into neighborhoods. I’ve seen schools turned into developments.”

He said during his previous term on the council, he was always available for his constituents, a practice he intends to continue.

“Win or lose, I will be back next year running for council,” he said.

Benedict said he would bring to the council an approach he taught his soccer players when he was a high school soccer coach and referee in Massachusetts utilizing commitment, leadership, effort, attitude and team spirit.

Carlsen, who moved to Maine 35 years ago and Scarborough nine years ago, said he brings to the council his strong support of education, the environment and experience working with both large and small businesses.

“Scarborough is a town I am proud to be part of,” he said.

ElectionJames BenedictIver CarlsenRichard Sullivan Jr.

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