Just two of nine incumbent Biddeford city councilors face opponents on the Nov. 7 ballot.

In Ward 1, Councilor Michael Swanton is facing Kathleen “Kathy” Russell, and in Ward 2, William “Bil” Moriarty is running to unseat Councilor John McCurry.

The rest of the Biddeford City Council will remain unchanged. Mayor Alan Casavant is running unopposed for his fourth term. Incumbents running unopposed include at-large Councilors Marc Lessard and Laura Seaver, Stephen St. Cyr of Ward 3, Robert Quattrone of Ward 4 and Michael Ready of Ward 7. Norman Belanger of Ward 6 and Victoria Foley of Ward 5, who were appointed after their predecessors resigned, are also running unopposed.

In Ward 1, Swanton, 65, is finishing his third term. He said the current council is “excellent” and he would like to continue working with members to reduce the property tax burden, assess city owned property and evaluate what the city should do with the former site of the Maine Energy trash incinerator.

“Biddeford owns a lot of property and I’m not sure we need all of it. I would love to either repurpose some of it or put it on the market,” he said.

The city still owns 3 Lincoln St., the riverfront property where Maine Energy once operated, and Swanton would like to see the council decide what to do with it.

“I desperately want to sell it. The economic development director and city manager have other plans, but I hope the City Council will come to some decision about what to do with that property and do it,” Swanton said.

Swanton said the general consensus is that taxes are too high in Biddeford and the council has tried to find ways to reduce the burden. Much of that focus has been on the redevelopment of downtown, which he supports, but he would also like to look at other ways to reduce the tax rate.

“The airport has been losing money forever. We’re trying to figure out a plan to break even,” he said.

Russell, a 57-year-old business development manager, frequently attends City Council meetings to speak on various topics, including property taxes. She said Biddeford’s taxes are “significantly higher” than neighboring communities, which impacts property values. Residents of Ward 1, which includes the city’s coastal areas, often express frustrations about taxes.

“I feel like the voice of the taxpayer isn’t always heard,” Russell said, adding that she often encourages councilors to think about taxpayers.

Russell said she would bring a fresh perspective to council discussions and push for an analysis of city spending to determine how Biddeford differs from other communities.

“Before we spend money, we need to be comfortable that we understand all the alternatives,” she said. “I’m not saying we’re not doing that now, but we need to be very transparent about the impact on the taxpayer.”

Russell said she and her husband love Biddeford and want to stay in the city past retirement, but she questions whether that will be realistic for her family and others.

“I’m doing this because I want to help make sure that can happen for us. The key to that is making sure we can manage our taxes,” she said. “If they continue to go up at the current rate, we can’t afford to stay. It becomes very personal.”

In Ward 2, McCurry, 60, has served on the council for 12 years, including six years as council president. He said he is seeking another term to continue to work on stabilizing property taxes, supporting education and addressing capital improvement projects that have been put off because of previous budget cuts.

During his time on the council, McCurry said he has always focused on the tax rate and sewer rate. He continues to support looking for budget reductions and ways to continue to grow the city’s tax base.

“Those have always been my hot-button items,” he said. “I fight for that stuff strongly. I may not always get the votes, but I fight for them. I have to pay that stuff, too.”

McCurry feels Biddeford schools have come a long way under Superintendent Jeremy Ray, but he wants to continue to ensure students receive an education that keeps up with rapidly changing technology and prepares them for jobs that will allow them to return to the city to work.

McCurry said he believes the city is moving in the right direction and that people feel comfortable and safe in the community.

“People are seeing some pride in what is going on downtown. That has really lit a fire under some people because they really think the city is starting to look good and feel good,” McCurry said.

Moriarty, 42, served two terms on the Biddeford School Committee and is active with local and state Democratic committees. A donation development coordinator for the Salvation Army, he recently bought a house in Ward 2. Moriarty said his experience as a new homeowner and longtime renter in southern Maine give him a perspective he believes will be valuable as a city councilor. Ward 2 includes a mix of single-family homes and multi-unit apartment buildings.

“Buying my house last year gave me a taste of what homeowners go through when you pay taxes and pay water and sewer bills,” he said. “Looking at how homeowners are treated gave me the indication that I needed to be part of the conversation. On the other side of it, being a renter for many years taught me someone needs to stand up for renters, too.”

Serving on the School Committee was an “eye-opener” about the budget process and how the city spends money, Moriarty said. The school department planned ahead and kept budget increases to a minimum.

“We had a superintendent and a school board that looked at what was coming down the road. We found other ways to generate money,” he said. “I don’t think the City Council does that. I don’t think it takes into consideration that there are other (revenue) options out there for the city as well.”

Like McCurry, Moriarty sees many positives in recent downtown economic development. The mills have been an economic engine for the city and have brought in many new businesses, creating a “thriving” downtown that will bring in new revenue to keep taxes down, he said.

If elected, Moriarty said, he wants to look at the feasibility of starting a workfare program similar to ones in Portland and Westbrook. The programs require able-bodied people to work in exchange for rental assistance and other benefits.

“When you take in workfare recipients and send them out to do different jobs, you’re teaching them skills,” he said. “It can be an asset.”

The City Clerk’s Office will be open from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 2 for absentee voting, new voter registration and changes of name or address. Absentee ballots are due by Nov. 2. All voting on Nov. 7 will be in the Tiger Gym at Biddeford High School.

Biddeford residents will also vote Nov. 7 to fill seven seats on the School Committee. Although committee members are elected at-large instead of by ward, the city charter says no more than two members can live in the same ward.

The City Clerk’s Office said Crystal Blais, Jerry Tremblay and Lisa Vadnais all live in Ward 3, so the two with the most votes will win seats. Vadnais and Blais currently serve on the School Committee.

Other School Committee candidates are essentially unopposed and include Dennis Anglea, Dominic Deschambault, Karen Ruel, Vassie Fowler and Anthony Michaud. All of them are on the committee except for Fowler.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: grahamgillian

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