Three candidates vie for selectman’s seat in Machias election

Posted June 02, 2010, at 1:02 a.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — The annual town meeting has been set for Wednesday, June 9, and Town Manager Chris Loughlin said the budget this year is a conservative one, considering the town is losing considerable revenues.

The 55-article warrant, if passed, would represent less than a half-percent increase over last year, Loughlin said.

“But I think everyone realizes that even though we are holding costs, the revenues just aren’t there,” he said. Loughlin estimated the town would lose between $130,000 and $150,000. The majority of those losses are state revenue sharing funds.

The day before the meeting, on June 8, voters will elect a selectman and school board member. Shawn Scoville, who is seeking re-election, is the lone candidate for the school board, but three local men are competing for a single selectman’s seat, which will expire in 2013.

Among the candidates for selectman are:

ä Stephen Berry, Sr., 55, retired from the Down East Correctional Facility and currently a member of the Machias Board of Appeals.

“I would like to see new businesses come to town, maybe offer a three-year tax moratorium if a certain number of people are hired, or some sort of permit incentive,” Berry said. He said he would also like to carefully scrutinize all town expenditures with an eye toward cost savings.

“I’d also like to promote creating zoning ordinances but none that would impede business development,” he said.

ä Warren Gay, 69, has served as a selectman for five years. He said he is proud of accomplishing the 911 street numbering system in a single year. “But I still want to help bring town spending in line,” he said. “I want the town to stay prosperous.”

Gay said he is in favor of downtown revitalization and business development.

ä Belden Morse, 47, owns Steeple People, a historic preservation construction company and is a lifelong resident of Machias. He has not been involved in town politics before but said he hopes to bring common sense to the position of selectman.

“I want to listen to the people,” he said. “I want to focus on the community as a whole and bring back a sense of community.” He said re-establishing downtown is key. “I don’t want to minimize what we do have here but we need to build on those assets and our history.”

The town meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 9, at the Machias Memorial High School gymnasium, and voters will decide on raising $1.2 million through taxation for the $1,847,640 budget. Last week, voters approved raising $2.8 million in taxes to fund education.

The proposed municipal and capital budget includes no surprises, Loughlin said. It includes increases in personnel costs of almost $13,000, a $2,000 increase for Fire Department expenditures, a decrease in insurance costs, a small increase for the transfer station account, a decrease for the public safety building, a decrease for the Police Department, and small increases in the public works department, county tax assessment and animal control costs.

Third party requests, from such entities as the Red Cross, Burnham Tavern, the Chamber of Commerce and Porter Memorial Library, were decreased by $6,000.

Debt service shows a slight increase of $13,000, with a total request of $332,420.

The Board of Selectmen also recommend continuing to fund downtown revitalization efforts, a contingency account of $20,000, and $3,000 for the repair of sidewalks.

A significant increase — $40,000 — is requested for road maintenance, and $5,000 for town hall roof repairs is proposed.

The board has also recommended taking $20,000 from surplus funds to lower taxation.

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