WILMINGTON, MA — Incumbents Greg Bendel and Kevin Caira, and challengers Rob Fasulo, Mark Maselli, Dan Murphy, and Suzanne Sullivan, are running for TWO three-year seats on the Wilmington Board of Selectmen.
Wilmington Apple is asking the candidates multiple questions each week leading up to the April 27 Town Election.
The latest question:
Is the Town of Wilmington heading in the right direction? Explain.
Below are the candidates’ responses, in their own words:
Do I believe Wilmington is headed in the right direction? Yes, I do. Wilmington is a great place to live and we are fortunate to be able to offer something for everyone who lives here. Like many communities we do have challenges that we face. But, I believe that with the combination of a good Town Administration, countless volunteers and residents who are engaged in local government, we are prepared to face these challenges head on. First and for most Wilmington is a safe place for us to live thanks to the brave men and woman of our police and fire departments who work tirelessly day and night to keep us safe.
For years Wilmington has taken a very fiscally conservative approach to budgeting which has resulted in a consistently strong bond rating, a healthy reserve in our rainy day accounts and we continue to be a great position when it comes to borrowing. Unlike most of the surrounding towns we have been able to offer many services to residents without additional fees such as free all day kindergarten, no fees for trash and recycling, no school transportation fees, no athletic user fees, top notch veteran, DPW and senior services in addition to a strong public school system.
The current challenges we face are clear and I believe we have a plan to confront each one going forward. There are many areas in which we can improve on, and by working together and continuing to take proactive approaches to challenges, I’m confidant that we will keep moving forward successfully.
Yes, I believe the Town is headed in the right direction. I believe that everyone can agree that Wilmington is a great community in which to live and raise a family. The reason for this, in large measure, is that residents have readily volunteered their time and resources for the betterment of our community. We have been able to provide a wide range of quality programs and services without the imposition of burdensome fees. The Town continues to receive high marks both for its affordability and fiscal responsibility. The Town’s bond rating remains at its highest level, our tax rate is comparable and in some cases, lower than similar communities, and we have built a substantial operational and capital reserve to enable the Town to meet future needs without having to rely on prop 2 ½ overrides. Additionally, we have a low debt burden and we are among a small number of communities addressing long term liability issues such as employee retirement and other post employee benefits (OPEB).
The town continues to improve on its provision of services in every facet of government including public safety, education and public works. We have been recognized on numerous occasions for the quality services provided by our library, veterans’ services, recreation, building maintenance and elderly services departments. An examination of the new fiscal year budget testifies to the Town’s solid financial footing and supports an expansion of important municipal services.
Like all communities, the Town has many issues to deal with, but unlike many communities, the Town is well prepared to tackle these issues and to do so in the best interests of all Wilmington residents.
Wilmington is a great community, if I did not believe that I would not have remained here my entire life nor would I have decided to raise three kids here. While the community is great our local government has issues that need to be addressed. Over the past year and a half we watched while the town was adamant on putting a detox in the middle of a neighborhood, only feet from a school bus stop and residential neighborhood that they were willing to violate Public Records laws to keep residents from seeing the true process that was taken. We have an $83 million dollar high school that was built with less capacity than its predecessor, our elementary school buildings are so out of date that they cannot put air conditioning units into classroom windows for our children. The town’s OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) account is more than $112 million in the red and the unfunded pension liability is approximately $78 million.
Are we on the “right track”? These are real dollars that all of us homeowners are going to have to pay at one point or another. Eventually these bills will come due and how is the town going to pay them? With that said, developers are pocket zoning large parcels of land and the town hall knows this. Town officials are also negotiating with the developers on other projects outside of the public eye as we speak. 50 units off Butters Row (confirmed), 77 units (unconfirmed number) at Walpole Woodworkers, 57 units at the intersection of Woburn and Rte. 129 (confirmed). We won’t get into the rumored complexes on Rte. 62 in North Wilmington, Or the bus parking area on Rte. 129 or next to Burger King, or even Phase 3 of the hockey rink that I brought up at a previous selectmen’s meeting. So with all the current debt, after what’s already approved is built, we may now need to somehow make the high school larger, hire more school staff, police officers, fire personnel and apparatus, public works’ staff, and address the other school building needs. I also should mention the dwindling amount of “open space” left in town. When the undeveloped land the town has is gone, it’s gone forever leaving the future needs of the town to be filled by real eminent domain land takings.
In the end when all of this is done, our taxes will be so high that they will exclude the possibility of many of our seniors remaining in town and our kids that would like to start their family here will be priced out of the possibility. The direction the town is in it’s growing too fast. When businesses grow too fast they typically fail, Wilmington will be no different and many of our residents that are here now, will not be able to remain. If we care about our seniors staying in town, or our children having the opportunity to remain here with their families we need to act now. Our town government should be advocating sustainable growth and not uncontrolled growth. It also should be working for the residents, not against.
As a concerned member as this community, I would say no. There are too many empty retail lots and storefronts. Our population is growing fast, and I believe that the town may become overpopulated quickly and we will not be prepared for the consequences of that growth in the near future. There are not enough illuminated parks for the kids to play in after dusk and our youth programs are suffering a great loss in participation. The overall political moral of this town is down. Over the past few elections, voter turnout has been consistently low. We need to come together as a town to make decisions that will benefit all generations currently living here as well as future residents.
I do not believe the Town is heading in the right direction. I think we lack vision and the amount of vacant commercial and industrial spaces is a reflection of that. The town hired a consultant, the Main St. Market Study, which advised that we create walkable outdoor spaces to try and draw people to our commercial property and instead the town proposes to have an affordable housing by-law that will actually eliminate open spaces on commercial mixed use lots opposite to what their own consultant advised. We have bought absolutely NO passive recreation open space since I moved here 30 years ago to preserve some quality of life. Yentiles, as wonderful as it is, is not enough and there is really nothing left. Due to the gentrification of Boston and the surrounding communities Wilmington will feel the crunch of the so called “housing crisis” and our own space will become even more important to the residents but there is no real effort by the Board to provide this benefit to the townspeople. I think we need to do better. I think it is possible to serve ALL the people if we make the commitment and work together toward this common goal. When I read the purpose of the Bylaw I do not see that we are fulfilling that intent.
1.2 Purpose: “The purpose of this Bylaw is to implement the zoning powers granted to the Town of Wilmington under the Constitution and Statutes of the Commonwealth and includes, but is not limited to, the following objectives: to lessen congestion in the streets; to conserve health; to secure safety from fire, flood, panic and other dangers; to provide adequate light and air; to prevent overcrowding of land; to avoid undue concentration of population; to encourage housing for persons of all income levels; to facilitate the adequate provision of transportation, water, supply, drainage, sewage disposal, schools, parks, open space and other public requirements; to conserve the value of land and buildings, including conservation of natural resources and the prevention of blight and pollution of the environment; to encourage the most appropriate use of all land and water resources throughout the Town including consideration of the recommendations of any special studies and master plans for the Town; to preserve and increase amenities; and to preserve and enhance the development of the natural, scenic and aesthetic qualities of the community.”
No response provided.
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