June 20, 2018
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Voters hear from Houlton council hopefuls

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

HOULTON, Maine — There were few disagreements among candidates running for open seats on the Town Council when they squared off in a recent pre-Election Day debate.

The three candidates, who are running for two open seats, debated issues such as taxes, economic development and this year’s statewide referendum questions.

Each year, the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce holds the candidates forum to introduce the public to candidates and give voters an opportunity to learn each individual’s stance on local and statewide issues.

This year’s forum was moderated by Kent Good and was broadcast live on the local public access TV channel. The candidates responded to questions from Good while also fielding questions submitted by the public.

This year’s candidates are Nancy Ketch, Fred Grant and Phil Bernaiche.

Ketch is an incumbent whose term on the council is ending. She has entered the running to reclaim her seat. Grant and Bernaiche also are seeking three-year positions.

Ketch, who works for Maine Revenue Services, has experience in public service. She served for 12 years as executive director of the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce and is president of the Houlton High School Alumni Association board. She is involved with a number of organizations and committees.

Grant, a 12-year veteran of higher education, created CollegeHelpers.com to help college students find part-time jobs and colleges manage their part-time off-campus job postings. The Houlton native created the business in Boston before relocating. He also is involved with a number of organizations and committees, including the Houlton Community Arts Center campaign.

Bernaiche also has a resume packed with public service experience. Now retired, he has served multiple terms on the council and been a member of the SAD 29 board. He also has been and continues to be involved with a number of organizations and committees.

If elected, Ketch said, she would continue the work she started when she first became a councilor. She vowed to continue to push for economic development and job growth.

Grant also promised to promote economic development, saying there are lots of opportunities for online business and microbusiness creation in the area. He also suggested town officials could explore the possibility of creating business hatcheries in the area.

Bernaiche also said he would continue to strive to get more businesses and jobs to come to the area.

Each year, councilors set aside a specific amount of money for road repair projects. In March, voters approved a $1 million bond to repair close to two dozen roads and sidewalks.

There was some question earlier this year as to whether councilors would continue to fully fund the road repair account since the town had just taken out the bond.

All candidates stressed that they would be in favor of putting the maximum amount of money into the roads account each year to keep the roads from deteriorating.

The candidates also were in favor of repealing the school consolidation law.

Grant said he felt that consolidation “does not make sense for the area,” while Bernaiche said he felt that state government should stay out of local school business. Ketch noted that the consolidation model is “not a good fit for us.”

Election Day is Tuesday. Votes may be cast at the Gentle Memorial Building.

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