Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Gillian Graham email@example.com
Seven candidates are vying for three Old Orchard Beach Town Council seats in the town’s first election since a divisive recall vote last June.
Six of seven town councilors were removed from office in June after a dispute over a former town manager divided the council and fueled a tense recall election. Since then, however, the tone of Town Council meetings has been strikingly different, and the candidates on the Nov. 5 ballot say they want to continue on that path of civil discourse and cooperation.
None of the councilors removed from office in June is seeking election, although most of the current candidates also ran for council seats in June.
Four candidates are competing for two three-year seats on the council, and three others are running for a seat that has just a one-year term.
Voters also will decide on a proposed charter amendment that would reduce the size of the Town Council from seven members back to five. The council expanded from five to seven members in 2012.
Incumbent councilors Shawn O’Neill and Kenneth Blow were elected in June to replace recalled councilors and are both running for re-election. They are joined in the race for two three-year terms by former Town Councilor John Bird and Mark Koenigs, a Planning Board member who has served on various town committees.
In the race for a one-year term, former Town Councilor Michael Tousignant faces off against Richard Greenlee and Ryan Kelly, who both ran unsuccessfully in the June election.
Koenigs and Bird are the only candidates who did not also run in the recall election.
The winners of the Nov. 5 election will help oversee development of the municipal budget that could be especially challenging if both Saco and Dayton vote to leave the school district that they share with Old Orchard Beach.
O’Neill served 14 years on the Town Council, then took more than a year off before being re-elected last June. The 49-year-old postmaster serves as council chairman, and says he is able to bring stability to the council.
O’Neill said he wants to continue his council work to bring continuity back to the long-term planning process, seek new revenue to take the burden off property taxpayers, and address infrastructure needs, including upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant.
O’Neill has served on both five- and seven-member councils and believes the smaller size is more efficient and effective.
“This (council) makes it hard to make the argument to reduce to five when we see how cohesive and productive we are,” he said. “The council has moved on (from the recall) and I think the town has too.”
Blow, 51, was elected to his first term in June and said he wants to continue the positive work the council has done since then. The current council is able to find resolutions and move forward together, he said.
If re-elected, Blow said he wants to look at future funding of the town-owned Ballpark, which has been revived and run in the past few years by volunteers.
“My concern is the Ballpark needs major repairs. The income from events and the Raging Tide (baseball team) is nowhere near enough to fund those repairs,” he said. “We’ve got to have some kind of major income in there or it’s going to come from the tax base.”
Blow originally opposed increasing the number of town councilors, but believes there is value in having more viewpoints involved with decisions.
“I believe the charter was voted on and should not be changed so quickly back to five,” he said.
John Bird, a former town councilor who has served on charter and conservation commissions, said he wants to use his ability to work and solve problems with others to address infrastructure needs and closely analyze proposed budgets.
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