Four candidates for two seats on the Waldoboro Board of Selectmen discussed how to attract jobs to Waldoboro and their priorities for the redevelopment of the A.D. Gray and Sylvania properties during a forum June 16.
The Lincoln County News hosted the forum in cooperation with the town of Waldoboro. J.W. Oliver, editor of The Lincoln County News, moderated.
Only Oliver, the candidates, and a few others were present at the Waldoboro municipal building. There was no in-person audience to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Instead, the forum was broadcast live on the town’s YouTube channel and Lincoln County Television filmed the forum to air at a later time. The audience could submit questions live via YouTube.
Jan Griesenbrock, Seth Hall, Margo Metrick, and Jann Minzy are the candidates.
Waldoboro resident Reuben Mahar asked the candidates for their top priority for Waldoboro.
Metrick, who ran her own interior design business, A Distinctive Decor, for more than 20 years, talked about the importance of bringing jobs to Lincoln County’s largest town.
Metrick expressed frustration that companies such as Sylvania have relocated, stressing the need to attract and retain businesses and the jobs that come with them.
“Part of that building that generations of Waldoboro people had worked in went to New Hampshire and is still operational in New Hampshire,” she said. “That’s the type of thing we want to provide, a climate that will really bring industry here, and that’s not an easy thing to do, but I think if we really make an effort, we are going to get a fish to bite on the line and we can bring something here that will employ a significant number of people, whether it is industry or technology.”
She said she has contacted Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurs for ideas on how to attract businesses.
Hall, a local businessman and former chair of the planning board and member of various town committees, talked about attracting telecommuters to Waldoboro.
“You need the amenities that are conducive to supporting professional life and one of those is broadband. That’s just critically important,” Hall said.
“We still have pockets in the town that are quite underserved and some that are unserved. The town has been working on that, for sure, but there is much work that needs to be done,” Hall said.
Griesenbrock, who served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army National Guard for 28 years and retired as a lieutenant colonel, said the town’s economic situation warrants the most attention from the board of selectmen, citing the high number of residents who have experienced job losses associated with the pandemic.
“How they can get by to feed themselves, to house themselves, to travel, to pay their taxes? It’s really a huge, huge problem,” Griesenbrock said.
“We have to be sensitive to the fact that it is going to take a while” for the economy to recover, Griesenbrock said.
Minzy, the only incumbent, is a retired teacher and worked nights at the Taction call center in Waldoboro for 15 years. She said the town’s problems reflect the world’s problems, COVID-19 and the economy, and that the town took on those problems by reducing its proposed budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
“We pulled together. Our town, our select board, our town manager, our finance director, all our department heads pulled together, and we went back and redid our budget in light of what was going on,” Minzy said.
Griesenbrock, responding to a question from resident Freeman Zausner on the selectmen’s role in the establishment of a LincolnHealth outpatient facility in Waldoboro, said he believes it is an exciting opportunity for the town.
“As our residents become older, they need more health care available, and to have it within the boundary of Waldoboro, I think, is a significant advantage,” Griesenbrock said.
Oliver asked the candidates about the ideal use of the former Sylvania property, which is for sale. The lightbulb manufacturer was once a major employer in the town.
Minzy suggested boat storage or a marina on the Medomak River, along with the potential renovation of the historic Hoffses House.
“I think it would be a good idea if the town purchased it and I can see numerous activities there. … I would love to see something there for the town and by the town,” Minzy said.
Metrick said the issue needs more study, citing restrictions on redevelopment due to industrial pollution at the site.
“I think this needs to be looked at from all angles. This is not a yes-or-no issue,” Metrick said.
Hall described the risks at the property as numerous and diverse. “It’s not dangerous in the sense that it is unsafe to walk around it, but it is extremely limited in what you can do with it,” Hall said.
Hall does not think the town should buy the property, but suggested that the land could be donated to a private entity.
Griesenbrock suggested moving forward with caution as far as town involvement with the property. He expressed support for its sale to a private entity.
Similarly, Oliver asked the candidates what the town should do with the former A.D. Gray School, which has been vacant for 11 years and has grown increasingly rundown.
Metrick said she has not yet heard a viable proposal for the building.
“That’s the key. A viable proposal for that building would mean that it would be in use and productive and hopefully bring income to the town, but not require revenue to maintain from the town,” Metrick said.
Hall said the Medomak Valley Community Foundation invested about $15,000 in a feasibility study for a community center in the building.
“I don’t know if Medomak Valley Community Foundation’s proposal is the right one. Its time may be past, but I certainly do not believe the town should give it to a wealthy developer from downstate,” Hall said.
Portland developer Tim Wells has proposed a multiple-phase project at the property, including the conversion of the school into 20-27 housing units.
Griesenbrock said the town needs to look at the state of the building.
“Personally, I don’t think we should, as a town, tear it down and build something else there,” Griesenbrock said.
Minzy said the town is in talks with two developers and she hopes something can be done to restore the building.
“I certainly hope somebody with a vision, some skill, and some money can do something and bring that building back,” Minzy said.
To watch the forum, go to lctv.org and click on “Waldoboro Candidates Forum 2020” on the left-hand side of the page.