Town Clerk Nancy Oates said she is optimistic regarding Saturday’s turnout in that she ordered 3,000 ballots for the town, but expects between 1,500-1,900 (or 18-19 percent) to actually cast their ballots.

 

Town Clerk Nancy Oates said she is optimistic regarding Saturday’s turnout in that she ordered 3,000 ballots for the town, but expects between 1,500-1,900 (or 18-19 percent) to actually cast their ballots.

“I’d be delighted if 2,000 people turned out, but there is a long weekend and if we have nice weather, people might forget to go vote,” she said.

Oates certainly won’t forget to vote, however, since she is not only the Town Clerk but also a candidate in a contested race against her former assistant, Mary Moe McCarron.

Voters will have the final say in that and a slew of other contested races this Saturday as voting opens from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Duxbury Middle School.

All candidates got a chance to talk to the voters during the Clipper‘s annual Candidate’s Forum last Wednesday.

The event filled the Mural Room at Town Hall with citizens to hear how these candidates would use their skills and experience to shape the town’s future on a number of boards and committees.  In addition to candidates for selectman, school committee and town clerk (see related stories), citizens also got to hear ideas and debate from those seeking positions on the Duxbury Housing Authority, Planning Board, Library Trustees and Board of Assessors.

Panelists for the event were Clipper publisher David Cutler and reporter Keith L. Martin and Patriot Ledger reporter Anne Trafton.

In addition to candidates in the seven contested races, Town Moderator Allen Bornheimer, who is running unopposed, also spoke briefly at Wednesday’s forum.  He thanked voters for their past support for him as well as Town Meeting and praised all candidates for getting involved in town government.


<b>Planning Board</b>

From preserving open space to the ever-increasing presence of 40B proposals in town, the three candidates for a pair of five-year terms on the planning board all voiced their opinions Wednesday night.

Incumbent George Wadsworth, Robert Molla and James Kimball, Jr. first expressed their thoughts on further changes to the town’s bylaws that are needed, following the overhaul last year.  While Molla noted lighting and light pollution as concerns of his, Wadsworth and Kimball both noted that “mansionization” was a topic that concerned them both.

The three candidates were then asked about 40B projects, which allow developers to skirt local zoning bylaws, and the Planning Board’s role in these applications.  Currently, while the Zoning Board of Appeals handles the decisions on these developments, the Planning Board is relied on for a “technical review” of the details with comments forwarded to the ZBA.

Kimball first noted that through his current short-term appointment on the board, he’s had the opportunity to see firsthand the planners’ role in the process and felt they could do more.

“I think it’s a shame that the Planning Board is cut out of the process,” he said.  “Our town planner does an excellent technical reviewÖbut it would be great to participate in the process and with a lot of waivers requested, it would be great to weigh in heavily on which ones shouldn’t be granted or make recommendations.  We’re not at the table.”

Wadsworth added that applicants “choose to provide” very little information for the planners to review and as a result, it is extremely difficult to react in any meaningful way.

Molla felt that the board should take a proactive view on 40Bs and fight to get more information while working with other town boards on the developments. 

The three panelists were also asked their opinion on the potential purchase of the O’Neil Farm and the town’s status in obtaining open space.

Molla said that he was not familiar with the specifics of the O’Neil farm preservation, but said that there is an “obligation and duty not just for present Duxbury citizens to preserve space like thisÖbut for [the future].”

Kimball relived how he stumbled upon the O’Neil farm after moving to town and that he was in favor of its purchase as well as similar properties as they preserve the town’s “sense of place.”

As a member of the Community Preservation Committee, Wadsworth was well aware of the O’Neil project and said that it will provide not only Duxbury but the area with an an extraordinary opportunity to maintain a working farm.

He also added his belief that the easiest way to hold down the tax rate is to purchase open space.

“Open space doesn’t go to school,” said Wadsworth.  “Open space catches on fire, but it’s not a big deal.  It doesn’t get caught by police, race down the roads and it doesn’t argue with its parents, it just sits there.  It’s an extraordinary asset.”


<b>Library Trustees</b>

Voters got to hear from three of the four candidates for library trustees Wednesday night, who all pledged their desire to help the town’s library survive in difficult fiscal times.

In addition to incumbents Theodore Flynn and Nancy Delano, Union Street’s Arthur Evans was also present for the event.  Franklin Street’s Nancy Rose Noble was not able to attend the forum due to illness.

Asked about the importance of maintaining certification for the library, a topic hotly debated at Town Meeting, all three candidates stressed that this was vital for the library’s operation.  Flynn detailed how the library would lose its membership in the Old Colony Library Network and could lose the ability to receive state and federal grants.   Evans added that there is a “certain embarrassment for a town like Duxbury not to have its library certified” by the state.

With the library facing the potential of closing one day a week in fiscal year 2005, the candidates were then asked if they preferred closing on Sunday, when most area libraries are also closed, or Monday, when many students head there after school.

Delano praised Elaine Winquist, the library’s director, for investigating this issue and said that she would be comfortable with any recommendation Winquist made on the matter.

Evans said he hoped the library did not have to close at all, but if it did, he favored no operation on Sunday, even though it would inconvenience those who can only use it on the weekend. 

“This has to be traded off against the services the library provides school children and everyone else during the week as an active place,” said Evans.

Flynn pointed to statistics that indicate 50 percent of Sunday users are from out of town and that four times as many people frequent the afternoon shift on Monday versus the one shift on Sunday.  He added that the real question regarding closures comes down to shifts, of which there are three on Monday and one on Sunday.

“We’re talking about closing down three shifts,” said Flynn.  “We are talking with patrons and doing counts, so we’ll look at the best shifts we should remain open.”

The three candidates were also asked about the atmosphere in the library after 2 p.m., when students flood the building after school and whether this is causing a problem.

“It’s a concern,” said Delano.  “There needs to be some strong supervision to get those childrenÖto understand that when you are in a library there is a certain behavior or decorum.  It’s a quiet place, it’s not to run throughÖit’s to settle down, be quiet, read or do homework.”

Flynn spoke of the library’s nationally recognized youth librarian and the 70 programs available for them, saying students, like other citizens are welcomed.

“It’s not an issue of dealing with young adults; we want them there,” he said.  “It’s a learning center for the entire town and we want to fit services to do that.  If you give us more funding, we can have more staffing [and] more programs.”

Evans concurred with Flynn that “a library is where students belong” and said he didn’t know how much of a behavior issue their attendance was, but that the trustees could assist if there was one.


<b>Assessors</b>

The two candidates for a single spot on the Board of Assessors faced off Wednesday night to discuss issues ranging from technology to the qualifications for their post.

Tobey Garden Street’s James MacNab and Oak Street’s Lane Partridge first discussed the present state of the town’s assessing office and what changes, if elected, they would pursue. 

Both candidates praised the work of Deputy Assessor Dick Finnegan, with MacNab saying that there is always room for improvement and he hoped that he could add a different perspective to the board with his background in construction and historical preservation.  Partridge shared his experience as director of assessing in Hingham and hoped that his credentials could also assist Duxbury, expressing his interest in expanding the use of technology in the office.

The second question to candidates focused on just that topic as both were asked their opinion on the town’s recent investment of a GIS map of the assessor’s records to be placed on the Internet and for use by other town departments.

Partridge called the purchase a “worthwhile endeavor,” indicating most of the towns he deals with now have GIS capabilities on the web and that it will be an excellent tool both for the assessing department and citizens as well.  MacNab agreed, indicating that this was a topic the town has been looking at for a couple of years and he supported any attempt to get “online with everyone else.”

The last question to candidates was whether a role on the board required a “specialist” such as an appraiser or someone in construction and if it should therefore be appointed by selectmen rather than elected.

MacNab felt the post needed to be elected because a lot of the town is counting on the tax base and it was important to have “a diversified view” from different people.  Partridge also felt the position should be elected, citing accountability.

“If the board of assessors is not doing their job, they need to be able to be removed by the people,” he said, adding that assessing is not only a science, but requires a “finesse” so it is good for different viewpoints to be represented.


<b>Housing Authority</b>

In the race for a spot on the Duxbury Housing Authority, only one of the two candidates running was present.  While Elm Street’s John Griffin was away on business and unable to attend, his opponent, Elizabeth LaForest of West Street answered questions from panelists on topics including how to increase affordable housing in Duxbury and the new “payment in lieu” option for developers passed at Town Meeting.

“One good thing about the bylaw is that the developer, if they have certain number of units, we set [some] aside for affordable units,” she said.  “ I like the idea that the housing is scattered throughout the town.  I wouldn’t be supportive of having affordable housing dividing the town in any way.”

LaForest and Griffin are both running for a single two-year post on the committee