Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Laverriere, 57, said he wants to continue to move the city forward and is not afraid to make tough decisions.
He said he remains focused on making Biddeford a pro-business community and said the MERC property purchase was “huge” for the city.
“I think that was the biggest thing I’ve been involved in and feel the best about during all my years on the City Council,” he said.
Laverriere said he would support a downtown parking garage only if it was not paid for in a way that would increase property taxes, and would prefer the project was voted on by all residents instead of just city councilors.
A group of experienced candidates is running for two at-large seats to represent the entire city on the Biddeford City Council.
Incumbents Roch Angers and Richard Rhames are joined in the race by political newcomer Daniel Parenteau and former City Councilors James “Jim” Emerson, Marc Lessard and Clement A. Fleurent.
Rhames, 68, said the current council has made important strides in repairing damage from neglect caused by lack of funding for infrastructure maintenance and improvements, but more needs to be done to fix roads and city buildings. The council also successfully got rid of the Maine Energy Recovery Co. trash incinerator, leading to redevelopment projects developers say they would not otherwise pursue, he said.
Rhames said his opponents’ focus on cutting taxes is “magical thinking” that will not meet the current and future needs of the city. He believes the city needs to invest in infrastructure like a parking garage, as both Portland and Lewiston have done to spur economic development. Modest increases in the mil rate would not have been needed if previous councils had made small increases to cover increasing costs, he said.
“This is the best council I can remember and I’ve been paying attention for three decades,” Rhames said. “We looked at where the city was and we tried to do the right thing as stewards of this stuff that we, the people of Biddeford, own together. We did the best we could under some very tough circumstances.”
Angers, 60, who has served five non-consecutive terms, said he is passionate about his hometown and wants to continue to serve the city during a period of transition. He said he wants to find solutions to hold the line on taxes while ensuring Biddeford is sending out the right message about its future.
“(Biddeford) has so much vitality and so many good things that are going on,” he said.
Jim Emerson, a current school committee member who served on the City Council from 2007 to 2011, said he has demonstrated a consistent dedication of time and energy to his adopted hometown, which he would like to continue.
He said the city needs to focus on retaining existing businesses and attracting new ones.
“We need to proactively market opportunities that have the potential to relieve the pressure on our residential taxpayers,” Emerson, 59, said. “We also need to ensure we don’t lose sight of what we have in the quest for development. Biddeford has a great existing and diverse economic portfolio that we must not neglect.”
Fleurent, 78, previously served eight years on the City Council and two years on the Planning Board. He said he was asked to run for council by residents who are worried about taxes, a concern he shares. He believes the city is top heavy on salaries and would favor instituting a salary cap.
“I want to stay involved and represent those who are not capable or who are intimidated to speak before the council,” Fleurent said.
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