Six seek three Wiscasset selectmen’s seats

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 8:00am

    Wiscasset will hold its annual election on Tuesday Sept. 8, the same day voters will consider the proposed 2020-2021 municipal and school budgets. The three, two-year terms on the select board are the only contested seats. The candidates are incumbents Kimberly Andersson and Ben Rines Jr., former selectmen Pamela Dunning and Timothy Merry, William Maloney of the budget committee and former school committee member Sarah Whitfield.

    Selectmen’s Chair Judy Colby is not seeking re-election.

    Wiscasset Newspaper asked the candidates for brief biographies including their involvement in community and professional organizations; and for responses to two questions: Considering the position, you are running for, what do you feel are the three most pressing issues.  And, any other thoughts on why you are running or what you can bring to the office.

    Kim Andersson lives with her husband and children at 26 Brown Road. She works as a teacher at Wiscasset Middle High School. She earned an MS in Educational Leadership at UMaine Farmington in 2020 and BA in Literature, Stockton State College, 1993.

    Andersson was elected to the select board in June 2018; prior to that she served a two-year term on the Budget Committee, was a representative to the Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit from June 2009 to June 2012 and served a three-month term on the Wiscasset School Committee in 2009. Andersson chairs the Wiscasset Comprehensive Planning Committee, is a past president of Wiscasset High School Boosters, a past coach, Wiscasset Area Robotics Program; former chair of Wiscasset Partners in Education and past treasurer for the Wiscasset Area Chamber of Commerce.

    “Wiscasset has a planning issue that begins with the Select Board. Our Select Board reacts to opportunities and problems as they present themselves. During the past two years I have served on the Select Board, we have not proactively set goals for the year or planned priorities for the Town Manager. We are reactive and not proactive which prevents us from moving the town forward. If re-elected to the Select Board, I will request we have a goal-setting session in September so we can plan the remainder of the year and set priorities for the Town Manger to work on,” wrote Andersson.

    “One of those priorities must be researching, planning, and developing an efficient and effective Office of Economic Development. ‘We need a planner’ is a common and recurring theme in town; we do need a planner with the caveat that we plan the planning first. I voted to remove the $100,000 planner position from the 2020-21 warrant because I was there when the Select and Budget Committees figured that dollar amount on the back of an envelope without research, planning, or a job description to look at,” added Anderson.  

    “We must develop a job description for this planner, consider how expanding code enforcement could contribute to economic development, participate with the current Lincoln County Regional Planning survey of Midcoast towns on planning, and seek community partnerships that would benefit both the region and the town while possibly sharing the investment in this planning. Planning and development is an investment in our future and in our pocketbooks.

    “Finally, Wiscasset needs to come together and identify who we are and where we want to go. Understanding what we collectively want will enable us to plan how we develop over the next 10 years. The Comprehensive Planning Committee is developing a survey that will be released on Sept. 8 to capture a picture of Wiscasset’s people, how we view current services and land use, and what our priorities are so that we can effectively and efficiently plan.”

    Andersson wrote she is running for a second term because she wants to see the Comprehensive Planning process through. “Serving on Wiscasset’s Select Board is a civic duty that I am honored to accept if I should be reelected. In the future, I encourage more people to run for the Select Board. I believe in term limits because that would not only enable different people to serve, it would demand more people stand up and participate. Anyone who is willing to read, listen, and set their personal agenda aside can serve on the Wiscasset Select Board. Please consider taking out a nomination paper in March 2021, for the next election cycle. Terms are two years that go by very fast. The strength of a democracy comes from its people; the more people involved in our governance, the stronger we are,” she stated. 

    Pamela Dunning lives on Old Bath Road. She is the library director at Wiscasset Public Library on High Street. She attended the University Maine Augusta with a focus on Computer Science and Library Science and has had ongoing continuing education through the Maine State Library Certification program.

    Dunning served on the Budget Committee five years and three terms on the select board, two as chairman. She also served on the Maine Municipal Association Legislative Policy Committee. Dunning noted she enjoys time spent with family and friends and stays active by kayaking, hiking and teaching and practicing yoga. 

    “Maine estimates a $524 million shortfall this year. Additional shortfalls of $434 million in 2021 and $449 million in 2022 are expected,” writes Dunning. “Municipal funding by the state will be greatly impacted by these losses. Many local residents have experienced lost income from lack of work or lost business revenue. This will impact their ability to pay their local taxes. The Select Board needs to work closely with the Town Manager to strategize economies and find contingencies for the challenges that will ensue from this situation.

    “Taxes have been an issue since the closing of Maine Yankee. What level of services can the town afford and are there economies or practices that may help in reducing taxes? This has been looked at in the past with several ideas put forward. It is time to again study and consider options. It is imperative that we be vigilant in how we allocate our limited resources.

    “Wiscasset has a Comprehensive Plan that is currently under revision. A close look should be given to where we want the town to go during this process. It is critically important that this plan be compatible with that direction and not be driven by the needs of yesterday. As a 46-year resident of Wiscasset, I have a strong memory of Wiscasset as it was and knowledge of how much it has changed. It is time to take a serious look at what other changes can be made that would help us move the community forward while protecting the historic flavor of the village,” added Dunning.

    “We are living in very difficult, contentious times. It will take strong leadership, a calm demeanor and an open mind to move forward through the hazards of today. I am prepared to serve Wiscasset and its citizens, to work to bring us together and to strive for a stronger sense of community for us all.

    “I am a straight-forward person with a strong measure of common sense. I look for the pitfalls, plan for eventualities and then move forward knowing that I am prepared. My focus is on looking forward and the needs of the future,” Dunning concluded.

    William J. Maloney lives at 211 Federal St. He’s a retired national sales manager and attended the New England School of Accounting. Maloney served on Wiscasset’s Downtown Public Advisory Committee, the Budget Committee, and as chair of the Senior Center. He’s also served on a Planning Commission, chaired a Human Rights Commission, is a member /officer of a police pension fund and held various offices with his church.

    He’s treasurer of Wiscasset Rod & Gun, a member of All Saints Parish Finance Committee, Financial Secretary for the Knights of Columbus of Newcastle and a Friends of Wiscasset member.

    Maloney considers the three most pressing issues facing Wiscasset to be: “Stabilizing the tax rate. Increasing the tax base and looking at how we are doing things. Assessing if we can do a better job or (evaluating) do we need it.”

    He wrote, “A town planner/economic development person is needed to increase the tax base. These alone could count as the three most pressing issues that we face. Investigate more usage of the waterfront for the benefit of both residents and visitors. Encourage citizen participation in assisting town activities and fundraising for Town projects.

    “I bring years of managing people and budgets.  Ability to work with people to solve problems,” Maloney added.

    Timothy Merry lives with his wife Lorie on Old County Road. A graduate of Wiscasset High School, Merry is veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He’s a former Wiscasset selectman serving one term. He’s a former Bath firefighter and been a member of Wiscasset Fire Department since 1977 having served as fire chief for a number of years.

    Leadership, property taxes and infrastructure need to be taken seriously, he wrote.

    “I feel that no matter what you do in life your chances of having positive outcomes starts with good leadership. Our current form of town government depends heavily on strong leadership. We suffer when our elected officials aren’t successful in hiring the right person. I've lost count on how many Town Managers have come and gone since we decided on this form of government. I wonder too how long it will take to have a discussion on changing our form of government to a Town Administrator which would mean the Selectmen would play a much greater role in running the town.

    “Taxpayers cannot continue to pay more every year without an increase in revenues; there are three options. They are increase taxes, cut services, or use the reserve monies. I would choose using reserve monies if faced with another tax increase. Our capital reserve account needs to be a consideration whenever there are legitimate expenditures brought before the Selectmen that the normal budget process cannot handle.

    “The town’s infrastructure has been mismanaged for years,” Merry continued. “The Sewer Treatment Plant is getting all the attention now but there isn't a single department that doesn't face major capital improvement issues. The previous town managers and select boards have failed to properly address these needs. Now it will cost taxpayers much more than it should have. This failure is a direct result of not using the reserve account when the need arises,” he added. “I'm not advocating to use the reserve account at will but it has to be a consideration whenever there’s a legitimate need.

    “I've been a lifelong resident of Wiscasset minus my four years in the military. I've seen a lot of change most coming just in the last 10 to 15 years. Much of the change hasn't been to my liking but as they say that's life. I don't know if you have noticed but I've questioned the leadership in our Town a couple of times in my statements. I guess that's the main reason I'm running for Selectman, you have to put your money where your mouth is,” concluded Merry.

    Benjamin Rines Jr. lives on Old Bath Road. He worked as a welder at the Bath Iron Works shipyard for 33 years before retiring. He graduated from Wiscasset High School in 1971. Rines has served multiple terms on the select board beginning in 1976 and continuing in the 1980s and 90s. He was re-elected to the select board for consecutive terms in 2000 and 2004. Before being elected a selectman, he served on the budget committee four years.

    Rines also served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives from 1996 to 2000 serving Wiscasset, Alna, Whitefield, Windsor, Somerville and the unorganized territory of Hibberts Gore. He’s an active member and past president of Wiscasset Alumni Association.

    “Hear ye, hear ye! Wiscasset has a solid tax base and a healthy bank book. We are financially sound,” wrote Rines.

    “Moving forward, here are a few things that might help. The town is about to enter into negotiations with Cenergy regarding the installation of solar panels at the airport. With $50,000 in new revenue and savings on our electrical bill, this project is worth pursuing!

    “Meanwhile, following the town receiving a Brownfield grant worth $100,000, the hazardous wastes at the Mason Station property are finally being removed. This should go  a long way towards making this site more marketable, helping to return it to the tax rolls where it belongs,” he continued.

    Rines noted Maine Yankee’s agreement with Wiscasset concerning the storage of nuclear waste at Bailey Point expires in less than two years. “This has been an important revenue stream for the town. As long as their poison remains, keeping all of us in harm’s way, we have little choice but to wring every last nickel out of them that we can. We’ve earned it!”

    On another matter Rines wrote, “Now that we (the town) owns White’s Island, it would be a tremendous asset to the waterfront if we could find a way to put it to good use. For generations, walking the footbridges with the Sheepscot River flowing beneath your feet and then exploring the island was one of the great treasures of the town.

    “All I could do was shake my head in disbelief while recently reading about citizens in a neighboring town seeking the opportunity to be heard at their select board’s meetings. Back in 1976 when I first joined the board, the practice of the town’s people here being part of the conversation was already a well-established tradition. It’s been a honor keeping it that way. Hear ye, hear ye! It is voting time in the Shire town of Lincoln County, the best treasure of them all! Thank you for your consideration.”

    Sarah Whitfield lives on Langdon Road; she’s employed as the Director of Annual Giving for the University of Southern Maine Foundation. Whitfield earned a Bachelor of Arts at Colby College, a Master of Public Policy from American University and is working towards a PhD in public policy at USM planning to graduate in May 2021.

    Whitfield served on the Wiscasset School Committee from 2005 to 2009 and served a gubernatorial appointment to the Baxter School for the Deaf/Maine Education Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing from 2006 to 2009.

    She’s a member of First Congregational Church UCC Wiscasset (current deacon and guest preacher, former president, vice-president, and pastoral search committee chair); on Wiscasset Public Library Board of Corporators, and member of Wiscasset Female Charitable Society.

    “One of the most important things I see for us as a town moving forward is hiring an economic development specialist,” wrote Whitfield. “We need someone who will think about our economic future proactively, someone who will not only assist potential business owners with setting up shop, but work with the town to ensure that we are putting forth the absolute best of Wiscasset and capitalizing on the reasons we have all chosen to call Wiscasset home. This person could also work on obtaining grants and encouraging newcomers to settle in Wiscasset, broadening the tax base. It has never been more important to have a person in this type of position.”

    “We also have so much talent in this town and many volunteer groups and organizations, but they aren’t always on the same page,” continued Whitfield. “All are working towards a better Wiscasset but we need to ensure that everyone feels informed and that they can jump right in in whatever capacity suits them. So much good has been done, but so much more could be done if we improve communication within the town.

    “Finally, this is a point in time that we need to take advantage of. With real estate sales in the area increasing, new out-of-staters discovering the Midcoast, a downtown construction project now finished, and a comprehensive planning process starting, we have unlimited opportunity to determine what our future looks like. Coordinated communication and an economic development specialist are two important steps, but overall, we need a vision that I call “gracious momentum.” What I mean by that is being able to innovate, try new things, and move forward in a positive direction (economically, financially, and socially) while also having respect for our traditions, our history as a town, and understanding where people are coming from with their thoughts and opinions.”

    Whitfield said she’s running for selectman because, “I am certain that this point in time is crucial for the next period in our town. I bring a unique perspective being born and raised in Wiscasset, spending five years away in a big city, and returning six years ago, committing to Wiscasset as my permanent home. I have great respect for the history of this town and all of its traditions while at the same time seeing many opportunities to build on the momentum of the positive developments of the last several years and the unique time we are in. I am a connector and collaborator by nature and I know those traits will be a great asset as a selectman. I am committed to the prosperous future of Wiscasset and would be extremely grateful to receive your vote on Sept. 8.”

    The other candidates on the ballot include Michelle Blagdon who’s seeking another two-year term on the school committee, and Edward Kavanagh and Daniel Sortwell who are seeking re-election as trustees of Wiscasset Water District. No one took out nomination papers for a third, three-year term on the water district.

    No one took out nomination papers for any of the seven seats on the Budget Committee.

    In-person voting is Tuesday, Sept. 8 at Wiscasset Community Center from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. To download an application to request an absentee ballot visit Absentee ballot requests must be received by the town clerk by the close of the business day Thursday, Sept. 3. The ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. Election Day.