OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Six candidates are in the race for three, two-year Old Orchard Beach Town Council seats in the Nov. 3 election, including incumbents Kenneth Blow, Michael Tousignant and Shawn O’Neill, and challengers Guy Fontaine, Richard Leone and Gholamreza Namin. Candidates run at large for the three seats.

V. Louise Reid is unopposed in her bid for the remaining one year on a council seat formerly held by Joe Thornton, who moved from town.

The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier asked questions of candidates in contested races; their responses are in alphabetical order:

• Blow, 58, owns Seacoast RV. He has two children, previously served on the Planning Board and has been a councilor for seven years. He is a board member of Biddeford Saco Old Orchard Beach Transit, Libby Memorial Library, and Maine Water, is a Mason with Orange Lodge 215, a Kora Shriner, Scottish Knight, Knights Templar and member of the Lions Club and Sunset Bay Rotary. He is a graduate of Old Orchard Beach High School.

Kenneth Blow Courtesy Photo

Blow said the town has done the best job possible protecting residents during the coronavirus pandemic while using a common-sense approach to working with businesses.

He said the biggest challenge the council will face is continuing to keep townspeople safe and keeping an eye on the budget so families can continue to live in town.

“We’ll also need to make some improvements to infrastructure such as the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) required upgrades at the sewer treatment plant,” said Blow. “I will continue to go down through each line item in our budget and work with the department heads to prioritize and schedule those projects in a responsible fashion.”

He said projecting major capital improvements into the future, on a schedule, would aid the budget process and help balance the need for services and the property tax rate.

With Larry Mead retiring, Blow said is experience would help the council find a new town manager, “a replacement that will continue moving and leading OOB forward in a positive direction.”

• Fontaine, 68, is a retired from the Department of Defense, was a reserve deputy for the York County Sheriff’s Office for 21 years, an OOB special police officer and operations manager at The Ballpark. Married with two children, Fontaine is a past chair of the Ballpark Commission, was a secretary of the Camp Ellis Rod & Gun Club, a member of Saco Elks and is secretary of the OOB Democratic Committee.

Guy Fontaine Courtesy Photo

He said engaging residents in decision-making and bringing transparency along with finding new revenue sources to reduce the tax burden to residents, and forming a solid plan for the present and the future will be the council’s biggest challenges.

Fontaine said the town has done a good job dealing with coronavirus, keeping children safe and yet returning them to education, “understanding this is a fluid situation and being prepared to adjust quickly is important.”

Balancing need for services and reasonable property tax rates includes taking a hard look at every dollar being spent by each department and making sure it is needed, said Fontaine.

He said residents, and seasonal and year round businesses should be involved in deciding the structure and future of the town, and pledged to see that zoning reflects the vision of residents. He said he would be involved, listen to residents and be a voice for the people.

• Leone, 39, is employed by an insurance company. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Asian languages and cultures and religious studies from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a J.D. from the University of Maine school of Law. Married, he volunteers with the Old Orchard Beach Community Food Pantry.

Richard Leone Courtesy Photo

He said revenue will be challenging going forward, but if the town can find added streams based on tourism, then the community may be able to keep services at the level residents and businesses expect.

Leone said the town needs to find ways for tourists to contribute to the municipal budget as a way to balance the need for services and keep a reasonable tax rate.

“We need to explore alternative revenue streams from our tourist season,” he said. “The state is only giving us between 3 percent (2020) and 3.75 percent (2021) of the sales tax generated in OOB.”

Leone said the town responded well to coronavirus. “There are no easy answers right now, but remote learning is an option and in-person learning has many precautions being taken, and I think everyone is doing the best they can in this hard time,” he said.

• Namin, 60, is chief academic officer at STEM Education Collaborative and former Westbrook School Department superintendent. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is a member and former chair of the OOB Finance Committee. Married, Namin is a 2019 Harvard University Fellow, was a 2012 nominee for national superintendent, was inducted to the Worcester State University Athletic Hall of Fame, was named 1991 New England Coach of the Year, and is a former professional soccer player, among other achievements.

Gholamreza Namin Courtesy Photo

He said the OOB police, fire and school departments are doing an outstanding job coping with the coronavirus.

Namin said waste management issues should have been addressed 10 years ago and communications to taxpayers have failed to justify the proposed bond at a time of budget hardships for all. He pointed out that the town has a sizable number of seniors on fixed incomes.

He said councilors are good people, who are working hard, “but the issue of conflicts of interest must be a priority — we cannot have the rich and powerful thinking that they own the town and the taxpayers’ future.”

To balance needs for services without substantial increases to property taxes, Namin would increase business incentives, target state and federal revenue opportunities, “think big and dream far” for an industrial park geared toward marine, biotechnology and nano technology businesses.

He said OOB heeds a strategic plan with representation from taxpayers.

“We need to have an identity that OOB is the place to vacation, work and live,” said Namin. “This will mean attracting the business from Saco, Biddeford, and Portland.”

In addition, he said, “there needs to be a conversation about the issue of equity in regard to taxation and services.”

• O’Neill, 56, is retired after 36 years with the United States Postal Service, and owns Classic Clippings Lawn Care and Snowplowing. He was educated at Southern Maine Technical College and in the electrician apprentice program at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Single, he is a former member of the OOB Knights of Columbus, Biddeford Saco Elks Lodge, and Sons of the American Legion.

Shawn O’Neill Courtesy Photo

O’Neill said he is “completely satisfied with how the town and school department reacted to and continues to safely and effectively deal with the coronavirus pandemic to protect residents, businesses and visitors.”

He said the next challenge the council will face will be the hiring a new town manager.

“The council has its work cut out to select, and work with the new manager in order to maintain fairness and consistency throughout all departments, processes, procedures, and policies,” said O’Neill, pointing to the council’s ability to create a positive working relationship with the manager and staff.

“As your town councilor I have evidenced a strong work ethic and a clear understanding of fiscal responsibility,” said O’Neill. “I am proud that after 21 years as your councilor we have accomplished several large capital improvement projects, maintained and updated our vehicle fleet in all departments, guided the town manager in his quest for fair and successful labor negotiations resulting in timely contract acceptance with all departments, and in the end, the Town of Old Orchard Beach has one of the lowest mil rates in York County.”

• Tousignant, 58, is president of Loading Dock Equipment of New England, Inc. and is a graduate of Old Orchard Beach High school. He was a volunteer firefighter for 19 years, served on the Planning Boad, Knights of Columbus and Good Shepherd Parish. Married, Tousignant has served on the Town Council for 12 years.

Michael Tousignant Courtesy Photo

He said he believes the community’s schools are operating according to state guidelines in the coronavirus pandemic.

Tousignant said the biggest challenge facing the town is “taxes, taxes, taxes.”

“Due to the coronavirus, this year more than any other year we will have to really buckle down during the budget process,” said Tousignant. “We are just beginning to realize the impacts that the unexpected summer tourist season has had on our community and budgets. There will be many difficult decisions that will have to be discussed and studied.”

He was asked how he would balance keeping property taxes at a reasonable level while providing necessary services.

“It will be essential that the quality of life in the community be protected and that the community is kept on a sound economic footing,” said Tousignant. “We must keep our minds on future needs for our schools, the police and fire (departments).”

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