UPDATE 2:24 p.m., March 15 - The video of the debate is now available on Telemedia.
On Wednesday, the Chelmsford Republican Committee held their first ever Board of Selectmen Candidates' Night at the Library, following last week's debate by the Chelmsford Business Association.
All five candidates were given a period to introduce themselves and share their platforms, followed by a question and answer period from members of the audience.
The night was videotaped by Chelmsford Telemedia, and here's the key points from each of the candidates' segments in order of appearance.
- Joyce said that free cash should be used for tax relief and not more capital projects, citing that the stabilization fund has reached a high enough level and the town has undergone several recent capital projects.
- However, he did not say that tax relief should come from cutting any programs or services, only from free cash.
- Later, Joyce said that he could consider revising his policy of using free cash for tax relief, but said that this year that would be the proper route to take to help residents.
- Comparing this year to his first term on the board in the early 90s, Joyce explained the largest differences is the approach of Town Manager Paul Cohen attempt to follow the goals of the Board of Selectmen too strictly in comparison to then Town Manager Bernard Lynch, who often tried to not follow the directives of the Board.
- Askenburg emphasized her tenure on the School Committee along with the collaborative approach and heightened analysis on fiscal issues on that board and hopes to continue the approach with monthly town budget analyses on the Board of Selectmen if elected.
- She urged clearly defined goals for reducing the vacancy rate among commercial properties, which she estimated at 20 percent, and also urged an analysis on streamlined business permitting as well as whether Chelmsford is business friendly.
- Maloney took umbrage with a recent announcement by Roland Van Liew citing that a new school auditorium cost $31 million, citing that statement was a mistruth in that the figure included not only an auditorium, but new new libraries at the McCarthy School and Parker School, three new roofs for town schools, replacements of multiple boilers in town schools, and a new science wing at the high school while also giving back $16.8 million.
- On taxes, Maloney said that the key was about positioning the town to do things in an appropriate and smart manner, stating that the soon all of the town's capital projects would be set in place for 50 years and that it would be a good thing to return money from free cash if it didn't jeopardize the town's stablization fund, which allows the town to borrow at low rates. On that note, he also said that the town should see that money as a rainy day fund and not use it for capital projects, saying that the town's next big projects would be things like debt reduction and fixing unfunded liabilities.
- Just across the street from the library, Maloney said that the old Stop and Shop location wouldn't have been a good choice for the new fire station due to the cost needed to take it by eminent domain, but he hopes the town can work with the owners of the property and turn it into a mixed use development.
- Hanson highlighted his availability to the public during his first term on the board, as well as efforts to compromise with the Town Manager and work with Town Meeting Reps to return $900,000 to tax payers. He also cited work to increase the town's bond rating which allowed Chelmsford to borrow money with $600,000 in savings on interest as well as efforts to help Williamsburg residents on the bladder dam issue and attempts to save the town money on regionalized dispatch centers.
- On budgetary matters, Hanson noted that the best route would not be to pursue override votes, which rarely succeed, but rather try to fund within the town's means and seek less immediate and more cost effective solutions.
- In response to one question from the audience, Hanson said that the town's staffing was still about 10 percent of what it was in 2008, but that with some work the town was able to hire back two police officers. He noted that the main source of tax increases was continuing rising costs in things like healthcare coverage.
Roland Van Liew
- Van Liew urged the need to take a look at processes, stating that the town's employees are competent and hard working, but policies in place created a lack of transparency, specifically in areas regarding documentations of town work orders.
- He also apologized to Maloney on the auditorium issue, but said that the new Billerica Road fire station cost 50 percent more per square foot than other comparable capital projects in Massachusetts, which in themselves were on average twice as high as the national average. On this note, he stated a comparable nearby fire station constructed in New Hampshire was built for 40 percent less, and reasons given on this difference were inadequate and new leadership would be needed to avoid this in the future.
- Van Liew criticized the permitting process surrounding 9 North Road as well as statements by town officials in regard to the North Road fire station, calling them "a coordinated buzzsaw of misinformation" and that the Board of Selectmen can ignore regular residents on issues such as these.