ROCKLAND, Maine — Incumbent Councilor Larry Pritchett and challengers Louise MacLellan-Ruf and former Mayor Hal Perry have outlined their policy positions as they vie for two seats on the Rockland City Council.
The election is Nov. 5 although absentee ballots are already available at city hall.
The three candidates will meet 7:30 p.m. Thursday in a debate organized by the Bangor Daily News at the council chambers at Rockland City Hall, 270 Pleasant St. The debate will air live on government access channel 22. Viewers can email in questions for candidates during the debate by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pritchett, who is serving his first three-year term, cited his work in reducing the city’s energy use and costs, saying there has been progress at the library and wastewater plant but that there are more large opportunities for savings at those sites as well as with streetlights and at the transfer station. He pointed out that Rockland was one of the lead communities to push for state legislation allowing for municipal ownership of street lights as opposed to leasing them from the utility. He said this could result in reducing street lighting costs in half.
“I think I bring a very information and solution focused approach to the issues before council. This approach can help insure that what council approves will work and the approach can help work through ideological differences,” Pritchett said.
He also cited renovations to the recreation center as a matter that has been accomplished during the past three years.
“Rockland is fortunate in that many young folk see it as a desirable place to live. The challenge for the community is to provide the opportunities that would entice these folks to buy homes and stay here,” Pritchett said.
He said one of the greatest challenges to economic vitality will be addressing flood hazards around the waterfront over the coming decades, he said.
Pritchett works on water quality assessment projects that have included cleaning up the St. George River for clamming. He and his wife moved to Rockland 28 years ago.
MacLellan-Ruf said she is running because she wants Rockland to develop a business plan to make it successful.
She cited several examples of what she said were poor decisions by the city that had poor outcomes. Those include dumping snow off the fish pier only to now have to spend $70,000 to dredge the harbor by the pier. She also cited the installation of a speed bump downtown as a waste of money. She also said poor paving planning led to the closure of a local restaurant last year.
She also said it made no sense to cut some staff earlier this year and then a short time later grant raises to some in administration.
“These are just a few examples of us hemorrhaging money we simply do not have,” MacLellan-Ruf said.
She called for better communication by city officials to the community.
“The need for increased collaboration with our surrounding communities also should occur. Our committees and commissions are stacked with volunteers chosen for their acumen and talents. Let’s stop ignoring their recommendations. We have an opportunity to exchange resources and tap into the talents and brilliance of our community,” she said.
MacLellan-Ruf serves on the harbor management commission and is chair of the Harbor Trail Committee. She holds a master’s degree in social work administration and has volunteered for many local organizations including Rockland District Nursing Association and the Pope Humane Society of Knox County.
Perry said he is running on a platform of fiscal responsibility. He said the greatest challenge facing Rockland was to help people stay in their homes. He said he spoke to a man who runs a lawn mowing business in Rockland and that three of the man’s customers were putting their homes up for sale because they could not afford the property taxes.
Perry also cited the number of liens that have been placed on properties as a sign that property taxes are too high.
He said when he served as mayor he treated all citizens and councilors with respect.
Perry served one three-year term on the council, being elected in 2005. His council peers elected him mayor in 2007. He also ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2003, 2004 and 2010.
Perry said he was not supportive of moving city hall, pointing out that it is nearly paid. He also said he does not see why the city needs to spend $2 million on a new public works garage, particularly after voters have rejected the project twice at the polls.
Perry has lived in Rockland for 13 years. He works as an educational technician 2 in the resource room at Oceanside High School West in Thomaston.