Wareham Selectmen candidates talk override at open forum

By Matthew Bernat | Mar 23, 2018
Photo by: Matthew Bernat From left: Selectmen candidates Marc Bianco, Mary Bruce and Alan Slavin address voters on Thursday during a candidate's night.

The three Selectmen candidates in the upcoming Town Election answered a slew of questions Thursday on education, infrastructure and economic development.

However, the main concern for many at the Onset Protective League’s Candidate’s Night was how to raise additional revenue.

A crowd of roughly 70 people arrived to hear the candidates. Of two seats, one is contested by Marc Bianco and incumbent Alan Slavin. A third candidate, Mary Bruce, is running unopposed for the seat previously held by Judith Whiteside, who resigned in January.

Bianco’s town experience includes the Planning Board, where he has served for the last 10 months, and a stint on the Zoning Board of Appeals in the early 2000s. He’s lived in town for the past 25 years. Slavin has served as a Selectmen for six years and is involved with the Massachusetts Selectmen’s Association and the Massachusetts Municipal Association. A Wareham native, Bruce has served on the Wareham Council on Aging, is currently a member of the Beach and Tourism Committee and is a founding member of Don’t Trash Wareham. The volunteer-driven organization is dedicated to beautifying the town.

On the minds of many was a how to deal with lackluster revenues, which has led to cuts for services, such as the Council on Aging and Wareham Free Library. Earlier in the evening, School Committee candidates addressed a looming budget shortfall.

One question dealt with the possibility of using an override to bring in additional funds.

If approved by voters, an override would raise property taxes. Four years ago, voters overwhelmingly rejected an override, which led to drastic cuts in municipal services.

Candidates were asked if they would support an override. Bianco said he would not.

“I don’t think this community can handle an override,” he said. “It would be devastating for families.”

Bianco said officials should focus on finding grants and properly enforcing town bylaws to bring in more revenue.

Slavin said because voters said “no” four years ago, it would take a groundswell of support for him to back an override.

“If people show us they want an override, the Selectmen will put it on the ballot,” said Slavin. “If this town wants an override they’ve got to step up.”

Bruce, who supported the previous override, agreed with Slavin.

“I’m in favor of an override if a huge amount of people in town support it,” she said. “I wouldn’t support one right now.”

Bob Brousseau, a longtime, former School Committee members, asked candidates to prioritize the following three issues: economic development, education and infrastructure.

Slavin said in his experience the three issues are intertwined. It’s not possible to work on one alone, he said.

“You can’t do one without the others,” said Slavin. “Each piece interacts with each other.”

As an example, he pointed to a plan currently being worked on that would consolidate the town’s elementary schools into one, new building.

Bianco agreed a balance must occur while working on those three issues, but he said infrastructure and education should be the top priorities.

Bruce said she also felt it was difficult to prioritize those three issues, adding that when it comes to revenue, town officials should be willing to work with businesses that are willing to open in town.

Candidates fielded a question regarding a new, 174-unit affordable housing project proposed for 3102 Cranberry Highway East Wareham. Unveiled in June by Waltham-based developer Dakota Partners, the project, dubbed Woodland Cove, calls for constructing six, three- and four-story buildings on an 8.6-acre site. Of the 174 units, 106 will be classified as affordable under state guidelines.

Bianco, Bruce and Slavin were asked if they were against the project.

Bianco weighed the need for affordable housing against the potential impact the project would have on local infrastructure.

“Do I think having affordable housing is valuable? I think it is,” said Bianco. “Do I think 174 units is excessive? I think it is.”

Bruce offered a direct answer.

“I’m against it,” she said. “I don’t think we can handle it. I don’t see how it’s going to help us.”

Slavin said he opposed the project, but he noted unless the developer withdraws the project, it will be built.

“The Board of Selectmen is completely against it,” said Slavin. “Can we stop it? No.”

Slavin said board members are doing what they can to make sure the developer will address town concerns related to its impact on services and infrastructure.

The Town Election is set for April 3.

Comments (17)
Posted by: Andrea Smith | Mar 23, 2018 12:08

Best be careful about an override proposal:

 

Wareham Water rate payers are facing funding a $14.5 million water treatment facility and a 51% increase in their water bills a portion of which represents only a preliminary contribution to the overall cost of the water treatment facility.


Onset residents are facing the cost of a new fire station (approximately $8 million.

 

Sewer users are facing funding of a multi-million dollar repair project.

 

The school building committee will soon be proposing a new elementary school (student capacity 1020) which will add a multi-million dollar tax burden to real estate bills, even after the state's contribution to the project.

 

Toss an override into the balance, and funding the new school proposal already in jeopardy because of the above mentioned financial concerns will descend into further jeopardy.



Posted by: Steve Holmes | Mar 23, 2018 12:18

Andrea memories serve us well, everyone seemed opposed to an override or did not openly discuss it, then after the election, all seemed to support. I think a strong answer from the candidates would be good to see, yes or no, and a promise to hold their ground after the election. If they are running for office they should be knowledgeable about the finances of the Town. The voters will not support an override. As you listed there is already a long expensive list of items that are going to be paid for, folks will have a hard time paying for these things money is very tight. Hope you are well, and staying warm.



Posted by: joycebakes | Mar 23, 2018 12:30

No to override.



Posted by: Uptohere | Mar 23, 2018 13:53

I can' recall which session but someone mentioned merging with another town for our schools. And they agreed it would be the best option for us and the state would pay all the trasportation. And yet it seems to not even been looked into. Before we are too far down the road why is this still not an option?



Posted by: bob | Mar 23, 2018 14:50

No Override,and its time for new blood on the board....



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Mar 23, 2018 18:36

No override until the Fire Districts are done away with or merged. No override until the deadwood and excess managment is removed from the schools. No override until excess buildings owned by the Town are sold. No override until stops buying useless land with Community Preservation funds. If they want to /raise taxes we want good roads and a properly staff Muni Maint department first. 1/2 the Town is summer homes paying taxes and using no services and Town is going to hell. Its time for major structural changes and its starts with efficiency. Having 2 of everything is BS

 



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Mar 23, 2018 18:37

No override until the Fire Districts are done away with or merged. No override until the deadwood and excess managment is removed from the schools. No override until excess buildings owned by the Town are sold. No override until stops buying useless land with Community Preservation funds. If they want to /raise taxes we want good roads and a properly staff Muni Maint department first. 1/2 the Town is summer homes paying taxes and using no services and Town is going to hell. Its time for major structural changes and its starts with efficiency. Having 2 of everything is BS

 



Posted by: Steve Holmes | Mar 24, 2018 06:18

  1. Uptohere forming a school district on the  surface sounds like a good idea, and if it could be done right there may be alot of merit to the idea. I see that type of alliances all over the country with Hospital mergers. We have an excellent example in Town with Tobey Hospital. That merget was about 18 years ago maybe a little longer. Chances are good that if that merger did not take place Tobey may not be here todsay. And look how they have grown since becoming part of Southcoast.



Posted by: Steve Holmes | Mar 24, 2018 06:25

The Selectman cannot merge the Fire and Water Districts. But all of YOU can. The process is not all that difficult. The chance you take is today we do have an EXCELLENT Fire and water dept. If you remove the District they become part of Town Departments and are part of the budget process with the same rules. I think the quality after a few years will go down. So be careful what you ask for. If you want to control the spending there people have to show up. Very few people show up to the ANNUAL meeting. Once a year. All the belly aching and complaining, and 50 people show up. So you cant blame the Districts for that.



Posted by: joycebakes | Mar 24, 2018 10:53

provide absentee ballots or go thru town meeting addressing warrants and language, but no votes.  After warrants are all set, vote for all residents, either in person or on line with assigned numbers, not just 10% voting, but all.

 



Posted by: OnsetTogether | Mar 25, 2018 00:22

Steve Holmes over 120 people showed up at the OFD 2017 meeting and I hope for more in 2018.

Even if the Fire districts don’t formally merge they could combine clerical staff and other jobs. It’s not about serving the taxpayers, however.



Posted by: cranky pants | Mar 25, 2018 08:50

That was great. The posse showed up thinking it was going to be shenanigans as usual, but unfortunate for them the town's people decided to show and speak. Oh the long faces, the hemming and hawing... It was perfect. Too bad every meeting couldn't get flooded with opposing votes as it was that night. Believe it or not, the village did use it's voice.

I still can't figure out why we voted for huge ticket items on a Monday or Tuesday night coffee meeting as opposed to having these items be voted on with paper ballot during normal voting times. It's feeling like it's designed that way with a purpose. We shouldn't be allowing the bullies to pad this crap up, stack a meeting and pass whatever they want along. We need to throw a bylaw at the bylaw bandits that states no more voting to spend taxpayer money if it's over $100K on their coffee meetings. The village needs to exercise it's voice and stop the hemorrhaging.



Posted by: OnsetTogether | Mar 26, 2018 13:52

Holy Moly Cranky, I couldn't have said it better myself! Only 10 signatures gets an item on the warrant, write that one up.

 



Posted by: Steve Holmes | Mar 30, 2018 12:51

Onset that's a big number 120.  I forget the breakdown between WFD and OFD, but 120 is a good start. With all that is going on, and all the big ticket items we are reading about, you would think that number would be closer to 500 LOL. Its the same with Town Meeting. Would be nice if there was an electronic or on-line voting process. With all the technology today, it is possible.



Posted by: Steve Holmes | Mar 30, 2018 12:56

Cranky, we do have a quorum number I think its 150 people to pass certain warrant items, and I can remember going out to the parking lot with Alan Slavin and others to get people to show up because we could not pass the budget. I don't know what the answer is but folks just don't show up to these meetings, and that's where all our tax dollars are determined to be spent.



Posted by: cranky pants | Mar 30, 2018 13:48

How about just holding these meetings when our seasonal residents that pay taxes on those summer properties are here to participate ?



Posted by: felinesmom | Mar 30, 2018 14:26

I believe for Town Meeting the quorum was eliminated.



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