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Wilton: Williams joins Select Board race

  • Candidates for the Select Board, Sewer and Water Commissions gathered at the Town Hall on Tuesday night to answer resident questions.
  • Candidates for the Select Board, Sewer and Water Commissions gathered at the Town Hall on Tuesday night to answer resident questions.
  • Candidates for the Select Board, Sewer and Water Commissions gathered at the Town Hall on Tuesday night to answer resident questions.

WILTON — Candidates for the Sewer Commission, Water Commission and Select Board gathered together on Tuesday’s Candidate’s Night — including a fourth candidate who will be conducting a write-in campaign for the Select Board seat that will be left vacant by Chair Dan Donovan this year.

Kermit Williams announced his intent to run a write-in campaign for the seat to a crowded, standing-room-only crowd in the Town Hall Court room, and he was allowed to participate in the question-and-answer session with his fellow candidates Sandra Fischer, Eric Parsons and Doug Whitney. Williams explained that he does not have any local board experience, but is currently the District 4 State Representative. Williams said that he decided to join the race at the last minute, after he was approached by multiple residents requesting that he make a bid for the seat. Since he currently is only bound by his committments as a state representative, he now has the time to devote to a town board, he said.

Along with the Select Board representatives, Water Commissioner candidate Frank Edelblut, and Sewer Commissioner candidates Tom Schultz and Tom Herlihy were also present to answer the crowd’s questions. Steve Elliot, who is on the ballot running against Edelblut for the Water Commission and Schultz for the Sewer Commission, did not appear.

Select Board race

When asked their position of Warrant Article 13, which asks the town to contribute $80,000 to purchase a conservation easement on Abbott Hill, the candidates were split in their answers.

Two — Williams and Whitney, said they were for the project.

“I think it’s a small amount of money to preserve a lot of open space,” said Williams. When asked what benefits the easement provided other than the preservation of open space, Williams pointed to the protection of wellheads and access to recreational space for the town. Whitney agreed, noting that preserving the beauty and rural nature of the town is important to him.

Parsons took the opposite view, saying that the easement didn’t provide concrete benefits, and that the $80,000 would be better served in other areas of the town, such as going toward paying for the town’s needed rescue truck or for the town’s infrastructure projects, such as water or sewer improvements. Fischer did not take a stance, saying that she planned to attend an informational meeting on the subject scheduled on Wednesday night, and research the pros and cons before she made her decision at the polls.

All of the candidates noted that they were not in favor of making the Director of Public Works an elected position, speaking of the advantages of having a person invested in a career without being distracted by yearly politics, having a continuous leadership in the department, and ensuring a qualified individual fills the position.

When questioned about what they would do to lower the tax rate, Fischer said she would look at doing more infrastructure projects such as the proposed Frye Mill Bridge repair on the warrant this year. It’s a smart move to repair the bridge now, with $80,000 of town money from capital reserves, rather than wait multiple years for state assistance. Even with the state picking up 80 percent of the cost, it would be more expensive for the town to fix the bridge through the state than to do it internally. Whitney said he would like to see the town continue to smooth out impacts of large purchases by contributing yearly to capital reserves. Parsons suggested looking into a user tax for those who rent property but have children in the school system. Williams said that much of the tax rate is determined by the state and school taxes, and is not affected by the town.

Water and Sewer Commissioner

Herlihy, who is running unopposed for the one-year term for the Sewer Commission, said that if he’s re-elected, he’s like to see a capital reserve established for the Sewer Commission for unanticipated costs. He pointed to a recent pump replacement that cost $35,000 as an example. If the Sewer Commission had funds available, they could pull from it without needing to access the user rate and possibly raise it to pay for those costs, he said. He would also like to have a GIS map of the sewer system, and refurbish the pump stations, he said.

Both Herlihy and Schultz said that they would like to see the sewer system upgrade, and if elected would be looking at a five year program to begin those upgrades to spread out the cost. Schultz noted that it was a long-term goal of his to look at the impact of switching Wilton from a flat rate to a rate based on usage.

Ballot voting in Wilton is Tuesday at the Wilton Town Hall from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Town Meeting is on Thursday at the Florence Rideout Elementary School at 7 p.m. Due to the severe allergies of a student at Florence Rideout Elementary School, no products containing nuts may be brought into the elementary school.

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

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