SELECTMEN DEBATE RECAP: MacDonald, Marsh & O’Mahony Debate The Issues (with VIDEO)

WILMINGTON, MA — Kevin MacDonald, Daryn Marsh and Jomarie O’Mahony are competing for a 1-year seat (vacated by Ed Loud) on the Wilmington Board of Selectmen in this year’s Saturday’s Town Election.

The three candidates recently took part in a debate, organized by Wilmington Community Television and sponsored by the Wilmington-Tewksbury Chamber of Commerce and Reading Cooperative Bank, at Wilmington High School. Town Moderator Rob Peterson served as the debate’s moderator, while a panel of local journalists asked the questions of the candidates.

While Wilmington Apple encourages each voter to watch the debate in full, below are some highlights:

Opening Statements

Kevin MacDonald: “…It is my desire to unite the town for truth and unite the town for change… I listen to people in town and I have compassion for them because they’re struggling. [Their] #1 topic is that they’re negatively impacted by taxes. It’s my desire tonight to offer some solutions to some problems and my vision for improving the town of Wilmington.”

Daryn Marsh: “…I’m running for Selectmen again because I’m a result of a lifetime of Wilmington. I attended the Buzzell, Swain, West Intermediate, and Wilmington High School… I’ve seen this town change from a really tight knit community to a community that is struggling and, in some ways, divided down the middle… I’m hoping to bring a new perspective…”

Jomarie O’Mahony: “I’ve been a resident of Wilmington for the past 15 years. Prior to that, I lived in San Antonio for two years as a military wife. I grew up in Burlington and was born in Lawrence. Although Wilmington is not my lifelong residency, I consider it the residency I will maintain for the rest of my life… I’m a proud mother of 4 children and 2 rescue dogs. Graduate of Bentley University and Suffolk Law School. I work as an attorney for the Department of Children and Families for the past three years. Prior to that, I was in legal practice with my husband David. For the last 15 years, I’ve dedicated myself to Wilmington in various ways… Hopefully my commitment to Wilmington, through my volunteerism, will be reflected in my next step of wanting to be a member of the Board of Selectmen.”

What Are The Duties Of A Selectmen? Is The Current Board Doing A Good Job In Carrying Them Out?

Kevin MacDonald: “The Board of Selectmen is the leadership body for the Town of Wilmington. They’re an elected position. They’re tasked with various duties such as making difficult decisions and making sure things are done right. The town delivers a wide variety of services and the Selectmen are really the overseer of the Town Manager carrying out those duties.”

“My position is [the current board’s] performance has been weak. One of the initiatives I would put forward is to review the budget and see that it’s an honest budget and it’s not over-budgeted just to put money into free cash. I would have a dedicated pothole crew… The Board of Selectmen have to be committed to honest, fairness, and getting things done right. They are to see that the Town Manager is competent and not rewarding mediocrity or, even worse, rewarding incompetence…”

Daryn Marsh: “I’ve always seen the role of a Selectman as someone who is connected to the community… To take input from people, whether positive or negative, and use that input in the decisions that have to be made on upcoming issues within the community. Having been a pastor, having to deal with conflict and getting people from two different sides to land somewhere in the middle… is what I see as a role of the Selectmen.”

“[The current board] is doing the best they can with what they got. And I hope I can help.”

Jomarie O’Mahony: “The duties of the Selectmen as I see it are to review and analyze the issues that are presented to them, to hear what the community has to say about those issues, and to acknowledge what’s in the best interests of the residents and businesses. It’s a difficult and daunting task. In reviewing the board meetings over the past few years… I have to say the board has been in a difficult position. The Town of Wilmington has become more divided over issues rather than uniting. I hope I can help turn the bend on that and bring some unity back in to it.”

“I think [the current board] is doing a good job in advocating for what they’re hearing… Right now we have outside counsel giving us advice that some in the community want us to ignore on different issues. We’re putting them in some cases in impossible situations and then reprimanding them for not doing the impossible. Hopefully I can bring some common scene back into the scenarios, and some ideas and plans that will help resolve some of the issues in front of us.”

What Do You See As The Role Of Selectmen In Economic Development And What One Thing Would You Change To Entice Businesses To Move Here?

Kevin MacDonald: “… You don’t create wealth by taxing people out of their buildings… To create prosperity, you need to alleviate the taxes on the residents. The way I see that being accomplished is to take our industrial and commercial land and coming up with sensible development, and maximizing that development through mixed use… For example, [the Target property] should have been a mixed use property. Target could have been on the first floor. We could have had senior housing, veteran housing, and other services there, and would have generated business to Target, generated more income to the town, and addressed some needs in town. Going forward, seeing that the town has $91 million in the bank, I would like to see the town take a more proactive role in obtaining some industrial land, so they have control of this, and let private developers develop it so it maximizes the revenue that is generated to the town.”

Daryn Marsh: “Living here for so long, I’ve seen a lot of businesses come and go. One of the issues with economic development is a lot of the properties are privately owned. The town will need to work with the owners of those properties — going to them and saying this is what you’re going to do with your building, no one would like that…. My approach would be to pull the ownership together, sit down with them, and ask what there plans are for their buildings…. Take their input and then brainstorm. Somewhere, somehow, there will be connections that will work for the property owners and for some new businesses trying to come in…”

Jomarie O’Mahony: “I think it’s impossible to talk about economic development in town and not address some of the traffic issues that we’re also facing… Route 38 is a disaster in many respects and Route 125 isn’t that far behind it… I think the Board of Selectmen need to take a more proactive role in trying to entice small businesses back into town. I think we have difficulties because of traffic currently. My hope would be, because we have two committees pending for both of those issues, that we can come up with some solutions in the next few years that will help get those storefronts filled again.”

How Can The Town Prioritize Open Space & Do You Think We Should Take Any Action Against Overdevelopment? 

Kevin MacDonald: “We need sensible development that doesn’t hurt people. With regards to open space, I’m opposed to overburdening people with vacant land. When you talk about overdevelopment, when you tax people so much that they can’t afford to keep their land for their kids, your putting a burden on the entire community because that’s how overdevelopment occurs. When you burden people with taxes so that they have to maximize the use of their property without sensible development, it’s impacting the town…. It’s a tax issue and issue that involves government being involved in a friendly manner towards people rather than trying to torture them.”

Daryn Marsh: “You can’t stop progress, but you can manage progress. It’s a matter of bringing people together to see what is best. As far as open space, there are areas within Wilmington – Scriappa Farm for example – that’s been tossed around for several different uses. For me, that would be a priority on how it can be best used. We’d have to work with the ownership of the property… As far as overdevelopment, I’ve seen Wilmington change. It’s sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst. You can’t stop the development completely. Best way is to try to manage it in a way that it fruitful for all.”

Jomarie O’Mahony: “We need to start adding ‘and’ into the conversations we’re having… Yes, we need to preserve open space in our town because we need to preserve that small town feel we have. I grew up in Burlington when the mall was only one story and very small. I have seen what economic development and overdevelopment can do to a town. Thankfully, where my mother lives in Burlington looks almost exactly the same as where I grew up. They do have some safeguards around overdevelopment in some areas. We need to be thoughtful. The land we have in Wilmington is a commodity that’s not endless. I think the town needs to be more proactive. Instead of waiting for a developer to tell us how they’re going to manage 60 acres of land, we take control of the land by buying it and then have conversations with developers about how to develop it and what the town wants to see happen there.  I don’t think we need to go into the real estate business, but I think we need to be more proactive that what we’re doing.”

Would You Vote To Eliminate Flag Stops At The North Wilmington Train Station? Do You Support A Fire Substation In North Wilmington?

Kevin MacDonald: “It’s not so much a question of life and death, but wisdom vs. foolishness. The train does not have to block that road… I spoke to a conductor and simply said I want to get off at the first car and don’t want the train to block the road. When I said that, the train did not block the road and everything went smooth. I don’t know why in the world people think that train has to block that road…. The town officials are very well aware of when those scheduled stops are. They could position an ambulance, police car and fire engine on the other side of the tracks… I do not support a substation. The Wilmington Highway Department could be converted into an emergency response garage. We have the facility there. I’d say use the Department of Public Works as the new substation and build a new DPW garage down at the Recycling Center.”

Daryn Marsh: “Yes, I support a fire substation. The development in North Wilmington has been huge, especially with Avalon Oaks. Population has increased. Business has increased. We do need a substation up there. As far as the MBTA, I spent 2.5 years working for the MBTA. They will work with you when hen legislators come to them with an issue… Hopefully, short-term it will work, and long-term, they’ll build a new platform and move it back.”

Jomarie O’Mahony: “I absolutely support a substation in North Wilmington. It’s long overdue. We have so much development over there, that should have been built when we were building Fiorenza, Ashwood, and Target… I think that North Wilmington train station is a great example of collaboration between the Board of Selectmen and our state legislative delegation, as well as state agencies like the MBTA. I think we need to hear from those citizens who are concerned about eliminating those five times and how that might impact their ability to access Boston. We have a great group working on solving that problem. We already have short-term solutions… We have everyone at the table to reach a solution and that’s how it should be.”

Do You Agree With Facility Master Plan’s Call For A New Senior Center At The Current Town Hall Site And A New Town Hall At The Old Swain Site? Should This Be The First Priority? 

Kevin MacDonald: “I do not think that’s the first priority of the town’s buildings needs. My fear is that when we build a new town hall, it’s going to be even bigger, and they’re going to stuff even more unnecessary employees into those offices, whether it’s hiring somebody’s brother-in-law or somebody not really hired by merit… I find that there’s mismanagement and inefficiencies in the town. Before we even think about building a new Town Hall, we need to get our act right with our town government… I love our seniors, but my philosophy is, if we’re going to build something, lets have private enterprise build it and lets not have the taxpayers impacted by this…”

Daryn Marsh: “Besides the Senior Center and Town Hall that need revamps, there are some schools in Wilmington that need revamps. I’m for building new projects, but prioritizing them. My priority, if elected, would be encouraging the board and the town to the fire substation first. We need that more than anything… I hope the Senior Center remains in the plans… They’ve been working in the Town Hall for years…. I hope we can communicate what we need first and then move from there.”

Jomarie O’Mahony: “I agree that a new Senior Center and Town Hall are needed, but I’m  not sure I agree with the locations… We need a bigger Senior Center. I can’t say we’re supporting our senior citizen residents when we’re putting them in that current senior center which doesn’t meet their needs at all. I would suggest we could create a Community Center where it’s a senior center, but – in the evenings and weekends – have the ability to facilitate family and children events, because we don’t have a lot of indoor space. We’ve done a great job with outdoor recreational spaces. We need an indoor [recreational space]. I don’t know if the current Town Hall location would accommodate the complex I envision. We also need a new Town Hall and [School Administration offices]… I would think if we could get them into one facility, we’ve killed one bird with two stones.”

What Is Your Opinion On The Proposed Detox Facility On Middlesex Avenue? How Should The Selectmen Approach The Lawsuit?

Kevin MacDonald: “It’s a horrendous location. There’s no sewer there. I’ve been opposed to this since Day 1.  I’ve been encouraging the Selectmen and town officials to set up a meeting with the developer to sweeten the deal – to give him something unbelievable so he’ll change course and not develop it as a detox center… This is a state problem that needs a state solution. I would like to see the money we win from the lawsuit against the opioid producers to build a facility at Tewksbury State Hospital. It’s state property. It will be a state solution. Wouldn’t it be great that the people who knew the opiates were addictive to actually fund a state-of-the-art detox center… I believe [362 Middlesex Avenue] should be a train station with underground parking. I believe there should be a restaurant or eatery there. There should be some senior housing there, maybe some veteran housing.”

Daryn Marsh: “Wilmington needs [a detox center]. I personally know two people who could have benefited from it that passed away. Location? There’s been places to put it. Having dealt with people had addictions as a pastor, the best way to get over an addiction in detox is to be completely removed from the temptations. To have a facility across from a liquor store, and right on a train station line where a lot of drugs come in, is not a great location… I would have approached this differently. I would have approached the owners and said ‘You own property over by Target. Move it over there. You won’t have an issue with residents.'”

Jomarie O’Mahony: “I would agree the location is not the right location. The detox center is desperately needed… I would ask people to look at the September 25, 2017 Board of Selectmen meeting and hear everyone who spoke that night… One of the first things I hope to do as a member of the Board of Selectmen is to ask for an Executive Session with outside counsel because I believe there is a plan — we could secure another site and talk with Mr. Ray and Mr. Kneeland to see if they’re willing to negotiate so we don’t have years of litigation that’s going to cost this town, and the development, a lot of money. I think we need to resolve the issue — that would be my #1 priority — to try to get those meetings to happen…”

What Should The Town Being Doing About Its 30+ Miles Of Unaccepted Roads?

Kevin MacDonald: “It’s interesting that some roads are unaccepted, but their tax values are just as high as accepted roads… I want a dedicated pot hole crew. Pot holes should not be existing for months and months and months. People shouldn’t have their cars destroyed.”

Daryn Marsh: “I do know some people who live on unaccepted streets. It’s interesting that when the property is put on the market, there’s nothing requiring the developer to notify [buyers] that it’s an unaccepted street you’re responsible for. That would be a good approach to take for future developments in this community… They should have to indicate that your house is going to be on an unaccepted street before they buy. Going to have to deal with the unaccepted streets one at a time…”

Jomarie O’Mahony: “I live on an unaccepted road off of an unaccepted road…. I didn’t know it was an unaccepted road when I bought my property. I did ask, about 10 years ago, about the process of getting it accepted, and was told you’d need to pay for the engineering to determine what was needed and then the neighborhood would have to split the [construction] cost. I think that’s unacceptable to ask our residents to foot the bill for these roads. They’re town roads. We need to come up with a better plan. It’s going to be expensive. That’s why we haven’t done it. But I like that we’re looking at plans. I think some of the highway money we’re getting and can be diverted so we’re accepting one road at a time….”

QUICK HITS:

What Would You Suggest The Town Do With An Unexpected $1 Million?

Kevin MacDonald: Uniformed police officer in every school & reinstitute the K9 unit

Daryn Marsh: Contact the school system and see what they need for equipment

Jomarie O’Mahony: Make deposit on a piece of land to build a community center

Would You Change Anything About The Way Meetings Are Run?

Kevin MacDonald: “As you know, I’ve always been civil at meetings. I’ve never misbehaved until people interrupt me and deny my first amendment rights. When you’re trying to stand up for what’s right and present the truth, sometimes people don’t like it….”

Daryn Marsh: The meetings are run to Roberts Rules of Order. Civility is going to happen by example. We have to live it. Getting angry never solves a problem. Getting angry tends to end the discussion.

Jomarie O’Mahony: Limiting public comments. There’s currently unlimited time. “If someone has a 15-minute monologue, then they should get on the agenda and present it appropriately, not hold ‘public comments’ hostage.” “I also think we should be relying on reliable media outlets for our reporting… and not let social media create conspiracy theories. I will not be governing through social media. I don’t participate in any of the community pages and that will not change when I’m on the Board of Selectmen.”

Should Wilmington Change “Board Of Selectmen” To “Select Board?”

Kevin MacDonald: No answer.

Daryn Marsh: No.

Jomarie O’Mahony: “As the person who could potentially be only the 7th woman on the Board of Selectmen, I think you would assume I’d say Select Board, but my answer is I really don’t care. I want to be elected to the position. I don’t care what the title is you give me. I won the 2011 Good Guy. I didn’t ask them to change that award because I’m a gal…. I don’t care what title you give me, as long as one of those titles means I’m a member of the Board of Selectmen.”

Town Plastic Bag Ban — Good Or Bad Idea?

Kevin MacDonald: Good idea, but needs an exemption so people have something to put their fruits and vegetables in.

Daryn Marsh: Bad idea.

Jomarie O’Mahony: Good idea. Also believes her mother may have been mistaken for the Market Basket Ghost.

Are You In Or Out On Game Of Thrones?

Kevin MacDonald: Never watched the show.

Daryn Marsh: Will be watching with his wife, who will tell him everything that’s happening.

Jomarie O’Mahony: Out, but she does have a dog named Gemma.

Closing Statements

Kevin MacDonald: “I’m thankful to live in a community that’s filled with love and unity. However, we can use more of it. I’m here to serve you and unite the community for truth and change. I see people not respecting the taxpayers of Wilmington. It’s my desire to get on the board, do the right thing, and help – not hurt – people in town. I have no special interests that I’m representing… It’s my desire to implement principles of honesty, fairness, dependability, and compassion. My background in development, construction, site work, blasting, training across the country in various operations of heavy equipment, and soils will help in assessing sites we possibly we want to develop. It’s my desire to lower taxes in town by smart development that generates incomes to the town… I’m not for big government and big taxes; I believe in small government and small taxes.”

Daryn Marsh: “If I’m elected, I’ll bring a unique set of talents. Having been a pastor for many years. Involved in 4H program years ago. Youth Soccer. You name it. I’ve had a hand in it. I’ve always been one of the people that’s been in the background, helping who I can, when I can. I never looked for headlines… I’m hoping to bring a different approach to issues within Wilmington. I’m a blue collar electrician. I’ve had to work with people to get the project done on time and be happy about it. I’ve had good luck with it. Hopefully I can contribute a little more now that I have the time and willingness. Flip that ballot for me.”

Jomarie O’Mahony: “I’m Dan and Marie Ardito’s daughter. I’m Mary, Rose, Tony and Danny’s sister. I’m David’s wife. Most importantly, I’m Patrick, Meghan, Danny and Josie’s mother. The past 15 years of service to this town shows my commitment to it. I will continue to serve it in whatever manner this town sees fit. My hope is, after hearing me tonight, after reading the responses in the Wilmington Apple, you’ll see fit to vote for me on April 27 for the 1-year slot.”

Watch the full debate, courtesy of Wilmington Community Television, below:

(NOTE: The cover photo is from Wilmington Community Television.)

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