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New Ipswich holds candidates night



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Of the five candidates on the ballot for the budget committee in New Ipswich this year, only two came to a local candidates night at Town Hall, both speaking in support of an article that would ultimately disband the committee altogether.

Of the four seats on the budget committee up for election this year, only one is contested – a two-year term. Both current Budget Committee Chair Danny Heath and contender Jim Hicks have put in their name.

Hicks is also the sponsor of a petition article to disband the committee, in favor of having the Select Board craft the town’s budget. Running for the position does not change that stance, he made clear during a candidate’s night at the New Ipswich Town Hall on Tuesday.

Hicks said he was “appalled” at the conduct of the current budget committee, which drew fire this year when it presented a budget with deep cuts to the police department. After heavy public dissension at the budget hearing, the committee agreed to support the select board’s version of the budget, which didn’t include those police cuts.

Hicks said his preference would be to see article 18, which would disband the committee, pass. “My philosophy was if I can’t eliminate it, I’ll join it,” he said.

Bernard Hamill, who is running against current Select Board Chair David Lage for a three-year seat on the board, questioned whether the elimination of the committee might result in an imbalance of power, asking what would serve as a check on the Select Board without it.

Hicks replied that because it’s an elected position, and the voters ultimately make the decision regarding the budget, those checks and balances will come at the polling booth. 

Marc Fortier, who is running uncontested for a three-year term on the committee, held a similar stance to Hicks, saying he would prefer to see the town return to its previous format of a budget advisory committee, which can assist in crafting the budget and making recommendations, but ultimately leaving the final decision in the Select Board’s hands.

Fortier said the current budget committee hadn’t met its obligations to keep the townspeople informed on the budget process, pointing to bare-bones versions of minutes that don’t include detail about budget discussions. 

“If it wasn’t for the internet and Facebook, people wouldn’t have known what the budget was consisting of,” said  Fortier.

Hick’s opponent in the race, Heath, did not attend the forum, nor did Alan Doyle, who also is currently serving on the committee and is on the ballot for a three-year term. Also absent was Patricia Mittleider, who is running uncontested for a one-year term on the committee.

Three up for Select Board

Three candidates will appear on the ballot for Select Board this year. 

Hamill said he was running in order to shake up what he referred to as “the good old boy network” in New Ipswich.

“The phrase drain the swamp has been used many times, and it’s especially applicable to New Ipswich,” he said. As selectman, he said, he would work to eliminate “small power groups” that appoint their friends or themselves to positions, and finding qualified individuals to fill in department heads as the current ones near retirement age.

When asked about this issue, Lage replied that in his six years of experience on the board, he did not agree that the board “played favorites” when it came to what departments to fund.

“My goal as a selectman has always been to improve the town, and always being cognizant of the cost,” he said.

Lage said that in his time as selectman, he has worked to improve town communication though updating the town’s website, worked with taxpayers who have had difficulties paying their bills by working with them to set up payment plans, and attempting to keep health care costs low despite a general rise in that area, and being fiscally responsible with the budget.

“I believe the current board works well together,” he said. “We don’t always agree, which is perfect, because if we did, that wouldn’t always be a good situation.”

John Veeser is seeking to fulfill the remainder of the term left vacant by former Selectman Tim Johnson, who resigned his position earlier this year due to changes in his job. Veeser was appointed to fill his seat until this election, and put his name in for the one year remaining in Johnson’s term.

Veeser has previously run for a Select Board position in a contested race, which he ultimately lost, he told the crowd, but after that process was appointed to the then-budget advisory committee, and later served on the budget committee.

 

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.