RUMFORD — Six of eight people seeking three seats on the Board of Selectmen and two candidates vying for town clerk/treasurer answered questions at Thursday night’s debut Candidates’ Night in the Rumford Falls Auditorium.
Selectmen candidates Frank Anastasio, Eric Giroux, Jolene Lovejoy, Paul Lowell, and incumbents Jeff Sterling and Brad Adley answered six questions ranging from their stances on town government to wind turbines.
Moderator Jennifer Kreckel, a Rumford attorney, read statements from absent candidates Jeremy Volkernick and incumbent Frank DiConzo, whose daughter is getting married.
Sterling and Lowell are vying for a one-year term; and the rest are seeking the two three-year terms.
Town clerk/treasurer candidates Beth Bellegarde and Cynthia Kelley answered two questions about their backgrounds and why they want the jobs.
The two-hour event, which was attended by more than 50 people, began with selectmen responding to three questions that sought their philosophy on town government, how they would prepare the town for future tax-burden shifts by paper mill NewPage Inc., and ideas about economic development.
Each had three minutes to speak per question.
Anastasio, Giroux and Lowell said they believe taxes are too high, whereas Lovejoy, Sterling and Adley said they thought taxes are where they need to be to support the services that residents want.
Anastasio wants to cut wasteful spending, but not services, and doesn’t believe in an all-volunteer fire department. He also said he doesn’t believe that selectmen have listened to the people they represent.
Giroux also wants to keep today’s services intact, whereas Lowell wants to downsize the police and fire departments.
Lovejoy suggested cutting some services, but didn’t specify any, and Adley and Sterling stood by their proposed budget they approved, saying they backed Town Manager Carlo Puiia’s bottom line.
All six suggested ideas to help soften the blow of future tax-burden shifts ranging from filling empty storefronts in town to developing the Route 2 West corridor, the Route 108 business park, and the Gateway property on Lincoln Avenue.
Volkernick also suggested covering the canals and creating needed parking lots atop them.
All eight said they support economic development but of the six present, Adley, Anastasio and Lowell said it should be up to businesses to generate economic development and not selectmen.
Lovejoy suggested shopping locally, staying upbeat, having a can-do attitude and some work from selectmen, whereas Giroux said he believes the community and selectmen need to work together to provide organization and funding to grow businesses.
Sterling reiterated Lovejoy’s stance, adding that town officials should actively work to sell Rumford as a business-friendly town.
After a short break, town clerk/treasurer candidates Bellegarde and Kelley said they’d both like the job because they both enjoy working and interacting with customers, are people oriented and both have backgrounds in accounting and managing funds.
Both said they are also willing to learn what is necessary to do both jobs efficiently and responsibly.
Kreckel then read statements from DiConzo and Volkernick.
DiConzo stated that he loves Rumford and has committed himself to helping to guide it into the future while working to streamline government.
Volkernick said he would fight to bring positive change to Rumford, work to grow the tax base, supports Med-Care Ambulance’s $2.3 million new building project, and would only support wind power in Rumford if it benefits taxpayers.
Selectmen candidates present were then asked for their stances on regionalization, wind power, and what to do about the library.
All six said they strongly support regionalization, but only Anastasio said he wants Rumford and Mexico to merge into one town.
Lovejoy and Lowell said they’re against wind turbines in Rumford, but are willing to listen with open minds. Giroux said he isn’t “totally against” them, but would support the will of the people, whereas Anastasio declined to take a stance, preferring more information.
All said they support bringing the library up to code and expanding it.
In closing statements, Adley and Sterling urged voters to keep the current board intact; Anastasio said he “can be a strong voice;” Giroux urged increasing the police and fire departments, finding economic development, and doing more for town children; Lovejoy reiterated she has the can-do attitude needed for the job; and Lowell urged voters to only vote for him if they agree with him.