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:
If you are elected, what are at least three big things that you hope to accomplish during your 3 years on the board? How would you accomplish these things?
Below are the candidates’ responses, in their own words:
First and foremost I would continue my efforts to address the Town’s economic health by continuing the Town’s successful policy of conservative budgeting. Ensuring that we have adequate resources enables the Town to meet its present and future obligations including those expenses that may be extraordinary or unforeseen. I would continue to insist that we maintain substantial operational and capital reserves, continue our policy of paying down long term liabilities, maintain a low debt burden and resist any attempt to impose onerous fees. This fiscal course of action will enable the Town to begin to finance the capital building proposals outlined in the Facilities Master Plan with limited impact on the taxpayer.
In furtherance of the Town’s fiscal health, Selectmen helped to craft a Tax Increment Finance agreement with its largest employer and taxpayer, Analog Devices. This first of its kind agreement undertaken by the Town, ensures Analog’s investment of $143 million in new construction. Analog will bring 600 new employees to Wilmington, in what will now be its global headquarters. Selectmen have established an economic development committee to address similar opportunities to attract and retain clean manufacturing businesses and desirable retail stores and restaurants. I will continue to work with representatives from Textron and any other owner of underutilized or vacant commercial properties.
Second, we need to focus on providing appropriate affordable housing opportunities that meet the needs of a diverse population. That is why I support Article 41 on this year’s Annual Town Meeting Warrant relative to inclusionary zoning. Passage of this article would expand and diversify the Town’s housing stock, increase the supply of affordable housing and assist the Town in maintaining its 10% affordable housing inventory. I applaud the collaborative efforts of business and Town leaders to craft a practical and workable solution which when implemented will enable the Town to make substantial strides in meeting critical housing goals for both the senior and non-senior populations.
A third area to address would be traffic and public safety. I am proud to have initiated the proposal which resulted in the State’s agreement to fund the Butters Row Bridge Improvement project. This successful effort was accomplished in large measure due to neighborhood outreach galvanizing strong support in our efforts to convince the Department of Transportation to undertake this important project. We have also received commitments from the Commonwealth to make improvements to the Woburn Street/Lowell Street intersection and the Route 38 corridor. Efforts are also underway to address the problems faced by residents who live on unaccepted ways.
We are working with MBTA officials and our legislative delegation to ensure public safety at the North Wilmington Train crossing. We also continue to actively oppose any redirection of traffic to Wilmington roadways in conjunction with the City of Woburn’s Ledges housing project.
I am also in support of the Town Manager and Finance Committee proposal to hire eight additional firefighters to reduce overtime costs and better assist the Town in meeting critical public safety obligations including the eventual staffing of a North Wilmington Fire Substation.
This is a hard question because there are so many needs and challenges the Town faces that I believe are equally important. Economic development is important, but not really in the purview of the Board alone, and we do have some action finally being taken on this. So here are challenges and issues that the Board needs to address.
Implement capital improvements. Several seniors I have spoken to love the Senior Center where it is, on the town common, but state it is just not big enough. I would like to see an addition looked at as possible solution. It seems to me there is sufficient land there to accommodate an addition. I hope to finally get an affordable senior housing project off the ground and running. The people were told when the land was bought at St. Thomas that it would be used for this purpose. The Whitfield site is another good spot, with the train and other amenities and worthy of discussion. It is time to take action on this, no more lip service. I want the elementary school challenges to move to the top of the list, not the Town Hall. We need a timeline set for dealing with the school issues. What I heard at the School Committee debate was disturbing and unacceptable that staff and students are complaining that they believe the Wildwood School makes them ill and a new Town Hall is the priority project. I strongly disagree, schools need to come first. The Wildwood School is not worth saving. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed now! How to offset these financial impacts? See answer #3.
Work harder to negotiate for Scirrappa’s Farm for the future municipal and recreation space (both passive and active) needs of the town. There is very little undeveloped land left in Wilmington. We live in a very stressful world. It is well proven that recreation, both active and passive, are beneficial for our well-being, whether it is taking a walk in a quiet place, exercising, or enjoying a game. My kids could not play hockey because of the cost. I want to see a plan come forward for a town rink that pays for itself and the best location for that could be the farm, while also providing passive open space, maybe even a community garden. Being outdoors, gardening, walking, exercising is one of the best things you can do to maintain good mental and physical health. We need to do better offering this to our residents. Right now the only real choice is to walk on our busy streets. Neighboring communities have resources like Horn Pond, AVIS trails, Lake Quannapowitt, Mill Pond Reservoir and Ipswich River Park for walking. As we continue to develop, future generations will be thankful and this will become even more valuable to the town. Open Space has also been proven to keep taxes lower too. I hope to accomplish through negotiations and a special town meeting warrant article . We already have the money to pay from “free cash” plus maybe get creative to find other funding sources.
Get fair compensation for the loss of the our water supply because of the contamination from the Olin Site and work to get town water to the Cook Ave area and have Olin pay for it. They owe us more than a just pipeline and entrance fee to MWRA . We lost a whole resource they claim they can not feasibly clean up. I want to see a solution to the development of this site when, and only when, there is an adequate remediation plan in place. Not one that is incomplete through an “expedited” process that does not address the real issue. The town has been impacted enough and we deserve to have a project that will not cause further harm to the residents in that area. Time to be a Board that does more than just attend functions but one that actively stands up for its residents. This is what I hope to accomplish the most.
If re-elected the first thing I would do is maintain the level of civility that I have displayed since day one in office. Residents elected me to make tough decisions, sometimes decisions that some will disagree with. Those residents deserve to be treated with the same respect, regardless if we differ in opinion. I take great pride in knowing that I have always treated people with respect and I believe I have been a positive role model for others. I will continue to do what I believe is best for all of the people of our town, listen to residents feedback and make informed decisions, just as I have for the past three years. Like most things in life, I know that very little gets done working alone. I have proven to be a team player and I look forward to continue working with others to get things done and keep the town moving forward in a positive direction. Our residents deserve nothing less.
I would continue to be a strong advocate for conservative budgeting. Massachusetts is an expensive place to live and Wilmington is no different. What makes us different is that we budget conservatively, spend wisely and save for the future. I want us to continue these things so that we can keep providing excellent services to the residents at no additional costs. Unlike most surrounding towns we do not pay fees for all day kindergarten, trash pickup, transportation to school and participation in athletics, just to name a few. Our residents get top notch services from our Elderly Services Department, Veteran Services Department, Recreation Department as well as our Library. The DPW does a great job of plowing our streets and keeping all of our parks clean in addition to so much more. Here in Wilmington we are fortunate to have the finest Police and Fire Departments around that keep us safe each and every day. I want to help maintain all of these high level services. Additionally, our savings in reserve accounts will position us to take on a large capital improvement project such as a North Wilmington Sub Fire Station, a new Wildwood Elementary School or a new Senior Center with little or no additional impact on residents. We have positioned our selves well to tackle whatever project the residents see fit to start planning for next.
I plan to continue to be an advocate for upcoming infrastructure projects in our town. I voted to support three major infrastructure projects that will help with traffic issues and make some of our main roads more attractive to new businesses. The entire stretch of Rt. 38 from the Rt. 62 bridge to the Woburn line is being redone, the Butters Row Bridge is scheduled to be redone, and the intersection of Woburn Street and Lowell Street is scheduled to be redone, all in the next five years. Each of these projects are being paid for largely with state and federal money. I will continue to advocate for improving our roads and creating ways for residents who live on unaccepted ways to have thee opportunity to have their roads improved too. I will continue to support efforts to improve conditions at our North Wilmington Train Station. These are all examples of concerns that I have heard from residents over the past few years and I plan to continue addressing residents concerns going forward. I plan on accomplishing these things by working together with other elected officials, town employees and residents.
If you would like to find out more about my candidacy please visit gregbendel.com.
I have to say, I have far more than three things I will work to accomplish in my first year, but if your going to hold me to three:
- My first is working for a one year holiday from ever rising property taxes. The fact is, the town has $26 million in free cash and another $11 million in the Capital Stabilization account. The C.S. Should not be touched but it is “free cash” should the town need it. With $37 million in what is essentially money obtained by over taxation, the difference between last year’s budget and this year’s is $5 million. If we leveled taxes this year we would still have $32 million in free cash. Enough is enough, residents deserve a break. We hear so often that town officials have concerns for the aging being priced out of town, this is a small way we can help those seniors “and everyone else.” The incumbents called tax relief unrealistic, under their plan your taxes will continue to rise.
- Second, I will take a solid stance on the Olin site and will revert back to the town’s old position of no development without a plan for remediation. If we allow development before a plan is in place where is the town’s negotiating power to get a proper cleanup? Children as well as adults across town have died more than likely because of the contamination on site. Wilmington residents are unable to drink from their own private wells to this day and news of NDMA being absorbed through vapor during showers makes simple tasks such as showering a very dangerous game for those families effected. The fact is, we have learned through public records requests that the current chairman has sat in on all executive session meetings regarding Olin even after his brother approached the town on behalf of the project which certainly gave a window into the the town’s strategy for its opponents. Having a family member sitting in on executive sessions on the Olin matter now is akin to having the wolf watch the hen house and it cannot continue.
- Third, I plan on bringing the St. Dorothy’s land back up to a vote to fulfill the reason the town spent the money on it in the first place. The incumbents have spoken for three years about doing something for the aging, yet their actions have fallen far short of the finish line. I truly believe this land is the best location for our seniors and a new senior center. I will bring it back for another vote in hopes that other selectmen will see the potential I believe is there. Our seniors of today are the parents of my friends, my classmates and my teammates growing up. Their tax dollars made Wilmington what it is today. It’s time we stop using them as tools in a campaign and start providing them with those services that they expect.
I have many plans beyond this, however, as good as these ideas may sound, I need open-minded folks on the board alongside of me. Having consistent four (three) to one votes, as we have had for the past several years, will not achieve anything other than one group’s agenda. I challenge you, the reader, to go back over the past three years worth of selectmen’s meetings and see if either incumbent strayed with their vote from the other more than one or two times. We need folks on the board who are willing to work together toward common goals and not soldiers willing to take orders and vote the way they are told. Wilmington has a chance right now to make the needed changes on the board.
There are many big things that I would hope to accomplish as Selectman. Some things I would want to help accomplish would be to put an end to the Olin situation. It’s been going on much too long and Wilmington needs answers and monetary compensation for the loss of that land. Build a fire substation in North Wilmington, another item that is long overdue. I’d like to purchase Sciarappa Farm and put together a short- and long-term plan for development on that site that would benefit the entire town while still preserving the environment. I would put together a time frame for the expansion and/or consolidation of the Wildwood, Woburn Street and North Intermediate Schools.
I would accomplish these things by working with my fellow Selectman to find common ground on these issues and the best ways to accomplish them in the near term. I’d listen to the residents of our town and hear their questions and concerns and give them direct, honest answers. As Selectman, it would be my responsibility to help make the right decisions in the best interests for all of Wilmington and that is what I intend to do.
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