NORTH YARMOUTH — A former selectman and a newcomer to North Yarmouth local politics are competing for the Select Board seat vacated last October by Anne Graham.

Austin Harrell of Gray Road and Paul Napolitano of Mill Ridge Road, who spent 10 years on the board, are running for the remainder of Graham’s term, which expires June 30, 2022.

The election will be held Tuesday, March 3, the date of the presidential primary.

Both candidates spoke about the need for traffic-calming measures that were tested for one month this summer in the Village Center, where speeding is frequent and housing developments are under construction. Although data showed that the temporary, low-cost trial significantly cut the percentage of speeding motorists, resident opinions were mixed.

Meanwhile, School Administrative District 51 looks to build a new primary school in North Yarmouth, either by the Wescustogo Hall & Community Center or on Sharp’s Field, to address increased enrollment at the Mabel I. Wilson elementary school in Cumberland. It would mark the first time the town had a school since SAD 51 closed North Yarmouth Memorial School in 2014; a construction bond could go to voters in November.

Austin Harrell

Harrell moved to North Yarmouth in November 2018, having lived in Vienna, Maine, and Portland, as well as Tennessee and Colorado. He saw the Select Board opening as an opportunity to get involved in the community.

Speeding through town is a valid concern backed up by traffic data, he said.

“The measures that were implemented, and (their) results, show a positive impact … obviously there were some nuances that weren’t popular, and it didn’t look great, but I think that’s due to the budget,” Harrell said. “They did what they had with the time they had available and the budget they had available.”

He said he would like to see better sidewalks, and a median strip to create “that vertical narrowing effect” to slow motorists.

Harrell said he has withheld judgment on the school issue while he hears what other residents have to say. The need for a new school is a point of contention, although studies have shown the rise in enrollment, he added.

“I think a school in the town center would be a great location for our kids in North Yarmouth,” Harrell said. “Now is that the best for the community, and Cumberland? I guess I can’t really say, but I look forward to working more with the Select Board on that one.”

If elected, he would like to keep the town heading in its planned direction. The Village Center residential developments are part of the Comprehensive Plan’s directive for denser housing there, Harrell said, and “as North Yarmouth grows we want to make sure we do that intentionally, to preserve the feel that brings people (here).”

Paul Napolitano

Napolitano, who said he is running because the Select Board needs more members with knowledge of how that panel and the town work, has spent about 50 years in North Yarmouth.

Frequently driving his dump truck at the speed limit through the center of town, “people are passing me like I was chained to a telephone poll,” Napolitano said.

Measures such as speed bumps placed on both ends of crosswalks to define a landing area for pedestrians forced bicyclists to ride in the middle of the street, he said. Napolitano said there is a need for stricter law enforcement instead of speed-calming objects.

A new school is “definitely” necessary and should be built in North Yarmouth, since “we never should have closed the Memorial School,” Napolitano said.

But he doubted there’s enough room on Sharp’s field to build a nor school there, nor by Wescustogo, which was built onto a pared-down version of the former school.

“The key is to build that school someplace where we’ll have a big enough campus because enrollment’s just going to keep increasing,” Napolitano said. “It should be built with future expansion (in mind). … Real estate’s hot in North Yarmouth right now.”

If granted more time on the Select Board, Napolitano said he would like to increase the eligibility threshold of the town’s senior property tax assistance program. Residents must be 70 or older, with an annual income capped at $40,000 and at least 10 years lived in the town in order to qualify.

“There are a lot of people that are just barely over the income level, that don’t qualify” Napolitano said. “I think we need to tweak that a little bit. We need to keep the senior citizens in their houses.”

The town had 53 applicants that qualified last year, and the $50,000 it sets aside from undesignated fund balance each year for the program was divided up among them, Town Manager Rosemary Roy said.

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