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Candidates face off at New Ipswich Candidates Night

  • School Board candidates Jim Kingston and Chad Gibson speak during New Ipswich's Candidates Night on Tuesday. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    School Board candidates Jim Kingston and Chad Gibson speak during New Ipswich's Candidates Night on Tuesday.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The two candidates running for Select Board, John Veeser, left, and George Lawrence, talked about their views on Building No. 2, among other issues during candidates night Tuesday.<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The two candidates running for Select Board, John Veeser, left, and George Lawrence, talked about their views on Building No. 2, among other issues during candidates night Tuesday.
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • School Board candidates Jim Kingston and Chad Gibson speak during New Ipswich's Candidates Night on Tuesday. <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The two candidates running for Select Board, John Veeser, left, and George Lawrence, talked about their views on Building No. 2, among other issues during candidates night Tuesday.<br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

NEW IPSWICH — Candidate night was well attended by both the public and candidates Tuesday night, with all candidates for contested races making an appearance.

It’s a three way fight for the position of fire chief in New Ipswich this year. Incumbent Chief David Leel is up against Capt. Jim Feldhusen of the New Ipswich Fire Department and Tim Johnson, the Emergency Management Director for Greenville who is also a New Ipswich resident.

Johnson said he’s like to have the Fire Department respond to all EMS calls at the first tone, instead of waiting for a request for assistance, as is the current practice. He’d like to see more firefighters trained in EMS services, and also said he would take a $8,000 cut from the fire chief stipend to offset training costs. He plans to cut the budget for junior firefighters who were part of the Explorers program, too.

“They’re there to learn, they shouldn’t get paid,” said Johnson. One member of the Fire Department objected to cutting the stipend for junior firefighters.

Leel pointed out during the meeting that under the former fire chief, the town had for a period of six to eight months responded to each EMS call, and it had resulted in burned out firefighters and complaints from both townspeople and the Souhegan Ambulance service about doubling up on services unnecessarily.

Feldhusen said he would like to see more members certified as EMS, although he did not agree with going on every call, and a greater concentration on grant writing and maintenance of the Fire Department’s gear.

“Seventy percent of our calls are rescue calls, and 100 percent of our calls have the potential to need us to provide medical care,” said Feldhusen of providing more EMS trained firefighters. He also pointed out that in the last five years, Peterborough Fire Department has received $200,000 in grants and Temple $38,000, while New Ipswich hasn’t seen any major grants.

Leel said he had applied for three major grants in his seven years as fire chief, and had not been awarded any of them.

Jim Kingston and Chad Gibson, both vying for the New Ipswich seat on the School Board, were both in attendance Tuesday night. Kingston said he had made the decision to run for the position this year, as his children had all graduated from Mascenic. When he and his wife first moved to New Ipswich, one of the motivating factors was the schools, he said. And though he feels his children received an excellent education, he said in recent years standards have gone down.

“I’ve seen a steady decline in academics, especially in the past four years,” Kingston said in his opening remarks.

Gibson said that he first became involved with the School Board when his child was in elementary school because he, too, was concerned about the level of education his children were receiving. But he disagreed with Kingston that the district has been in decline.

Resident Lou Alverez asked if any funds had been put into the district to improve academics. Gibson said the district has been making an effort to bring higher-level classes and Advanced Placement classes back to Mascenic. He pointed out that the district had invested in the science program with the new technology building, to create a space where students could excel in that area.

“Our science labs previously were atrocious,” Gibson said. “They were almost unusable. Our Science Department right now is easily the strongest we have.” And other academic areas are next on the agenda, he said.

Kingston said he would like to see a more continuous AP course schedule, and to change the scheduling in the district to a mix of 90-minute blocks and 45-minute classes so that each subject is given the right amount of time.

On the Select Board side, resident John Veeser is going up against longtime Select Board member George Lawrence. Veeser said he had decided to run because he wanted to be more involved with town politics.

Veeser said that he would like to see individual capital reserve requests separated out, instead of grouped in one article, as they are now.

When asked about their stances on Building No. 2, the former Police Department building that was abandoned in 2008 due to an infestation of black mold, Veeser said that he was in support of removing the building. He did not, however, support the $46,000 warrant article to remove the building, as he didn’t think it took all factors into account.

Lawrence said he couldn’t support the removal of the building at this time.

Ballot voting will take place March 12 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Mascenic High School gym.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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