Saco mayoral candidates Marston Lovell and Don Pilon listen to a member of the public speak at a candidate forum Wednesday night at Saco City Hall hosted by Saco Main Street. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

Saco mayoral candidates Marston Lovell and Don Pilon listen to a member of the public speak at a candidate forum Wednesday night at Saco City Hall hosted by Saco Main Street. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

SACO — Campaign season has begun, and was officially kicked off Wednesday night with a candidates forum focused on the city’s downtown, hosted by Saco Main Street.

Mayoral candidates as well as those running for council had their own unique opinions, but one thing they could all agree on was a love for Saco, the waterfront and a desire to attract people to the downtown.

“We have a beautiful downtown,” said Ward 4 Lynn Copeland. She said she thought the city could improve access to the downtown with better traffic flow. She also said the downtown area could benefit from better crosswalks, benches for seniors to rest, more community spaces and could attract more millenials with wireless internet access.

Mayoral Candidate Don Pilon said many people move to the area because of Saco’s charming, New England-style Main Street. Pilon said he was in favor of development as long as the city maintained the charm of the downtown. He said he thought some of the older buildings downtown needed a little “dressing up” and he suggested the city apply for a facade grant to refurbish some of the building exteriors. 

Mayoral Candidate Marston Lovell said he believed that contrary to what many think, millennials still used cars, and the city should address the downtown parking before it became a bigger problem. Lovell said as the internet has devastated mall shopping, the city was well poised for some boutique style specialty stores to make it attractive to visitors. 

Ward 6 candidate Micah Smart said Main Street is a place where people park their car, run an errand or get something to eat, and then leave. He said he’d like to see the downtown as more of a destination.

“It needs to be a place where people hang out,” he said. 

“Clearly, traffic is a big issue in Saco,” said Ward 6 candidate Jason Boucher. He said the city could consider blocking off some streets to traffic and encourage people to walk. He said he’d like to see a space for larger events on Saco Island East to help draw people into the downtown. 

Ward 1 candidate Marshall Archer said he had a vision of going to the downtown with his family and getting dinner at a restaurant, than taking a nice walk by the river to a public event space on the eastern side of Saco Island to listen to a concert.

Unopposed Ward 5 candidate and Current City Councilor Alan Minthorn said he thought traffic in the Main Street area could be more restricted so that traffic could be diverted to Route One. He said he’d also like to see public bathrooms in the downtown.

Ward 6 candidate Theodore Sirois said at a recent Saco River cleaning it was heartbreaking to see needles discarded nearby Diamond Riverside Park on Irving Street. He said the park was an asset, and the city needed to clean it up. He said he thought the area could be cleared out and a swimming area could be created.

“The Saco River is an amazing resource,” said Ward 4 Candidate Michael Burman. He said the city could capitalize on its potential for recreational activity, and he’d like to see more access to the river included in the plans to develop Saco Island East. He said the city should also promote the Camp Ellis area, which could be a second downtown. 

Ward 3 Candidate Barbara Colman said when talking about the downtown, people need to remember the side streets as well as Main Street. She said some of the residential properties on the downtown side streets haven’t been well taken care of. She said the city shouldn’t be adding an 80 unit apartment complex at the old Notre Dame Church property on Cutts Avenue when it already had a parking problem, and the city needed to be forward thinking.

Ward 3 candidate William Doyle disagreed with parking concerns on Cutts Avenue, noting that when it was an active church, there was no parking issue. He said he would like to see Diamond Riverside Park revitalized, with added lighting and shrubbery cleaned up. He said the city owned a piece of land on Boom Road where a swimming area like the one across the river at Biddeford’s Rotary Park could be created.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected] 

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