OXFORD — Ensuring the financial stability of the town topped the concerns of residents who turned out Tuesday night to hear the views of three candidates for Board of Selectmen.

About 50 people appeared at the Oxford Recreation Center on King Street for the the Meet the Candidates Night to ask questions of candidates Mark Blaquiere, Dana Dillingham and Ernest “Ed” Knightly, on a variety of topics, including taxes, budgets, sewer hookups and Oxford Casino money disbursements.

The forum was moderated by Recreation Director Connie Staples.

Each candidate is seeking the one available seat on the Board of Selectmen that is being vacated by retiring veteran Selectman Roger Jackson.

The annual town election will be held on Tuesday, June 13, at the Municipal Safety Building on Route 26. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Resident Tom Cushman grilled the candidates about how they would handle the growing concerns over paying for the wastewater treatment plant’s operation.

“I think we need help,” Knightly said when asked how he and the other two candidates would handle the situation as selectmen. “If we don’t get hookups, we’re all going to have to pay.” 

While Dillingham said the plant is a necessary part of the town’s infrastructure to bring more businesses to town, he acknowledged the problem of getting new customers.

“There’s no backing out now,” he said. “We can’t just close it up.” 

Blaquiere said he understands people’s concern about it, adding he thought residents had been assured from the start that this would be a user-based operation.

“I shouldn’t have to pay for something I don’t use,” he said.

“I was totally against it,” he continued. “If someone tells me it won’t cost me anything, I believed them. Not anymore.”

Knightly said the town should have known from the beginning they would not have enough customers.

“No one did any research,” he said.

The candidates also had strong views on the use of the casino money and how to contain escalating department budgets.

“The money on the [Pigeon] hill is not guaranteed,” Knightly said. “If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. If they [Oxford Casino] closes, it’s not going to be pretty.”

“We need to prioritize spending, buy what we need and work on other things as we can,” Dillingham said.

Blaquiere said casino money should be used and not set aside as a “rainy day fund.” 

“It has to be put back into the town,” he said.

The candidates all agreed that they are independent thinkers and would be open to comments from the public at their meetings during the public comment time and by phone, mail and other means.

“We (selectmen) work for you,” Blaquiere said.

The candidates agreed that residents need answers about the budget.

Regionalization of certain town departments or functions, such as the fire departments, should be considered, the candidates agreed.

“We have more apparatus than we have drivers,” said Blaquiere, who is a former Oxford firefighter who now works for the Paris Fire Department. The three towns, Oxford, Norway and Paris, each owns a ladder truck rarely used at the same time, he said.

“That’s $3 million to go to a parade,” he stated as an example. 

When asked how the candidates might work to keep young people in town, Blaquiere said keep taxes down and Dillingham said bring more businesses into town, including the smaller ones that make Oxford a community. Knightly agreed with Dillingham.

Each candidate agreed that some short- and long-term planning needs to be done for the well-being of the town.

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Candidates for the Board of Selectmen, from left, Mark Blaquiere, Ernest “Ed” Knightly and Dana Dillingham, answered questions from residents during a Meet the Candidates Night at the Oxford Recreation Center on Tuesday night.


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