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Wiscasset to Vote on its Tie-Breaker
5/1/2015 12:15:00 PM Edgecomb Voters to Decide Two Races
By Abigail W. Adams
The Wiscasset Board of Selectmen has operated as a four-person body since former Selectman Bill Barnes’ resignation in August. The four-member board has voted 2-2 on several issues, defeating motions to determine how to proceed with foreclosed-on properties and denying a funding request from the school department for unmanned aerial vehicles.
On Tuesday, Nov. 3, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., at the Wiscasset Community Center, residents will vote in a new selectman to be the tie-breaker for the board. Three contenders – Roland Abbott, Judy Colby, and David Flynn – are vying for the spot.
Roland Abbott is a well-known name in Wiscasset’s emergency responder community. Born and raised in Wiscasset, Abbott has spent the majority of his life in town, which is where he chose to raise his own family.
Abbott is from a long line of firefighters. His grandfather, father, and uncle were all influential members of the fire department. “The fire service was always in my blood,” Abbott said. The Wiscasset High School graduate would become not only a firefighter, but also a licensed paramedic.
The transition to emergency medical services was natural, Abbott said. His mother was also an emergency medical technician. In 1975, when the provider of the ambulance service in Wiscasset could no longer do it, Abbott served on the committee that formed the Wiscasset Ambulance Service.
The ambulance service was founded one year later and Abbott remained involved until his September resignation as ambulance service director.
Abbott has long been interested in serving on the Wiscasset Board of Selectman. He took out nomination papers once before, but was unable to run due to his appointment as ambulance service director, a role he has filled since 2005.
Since he is no longer serving as director, when a seat opened up on the board, Abbott decided to throw his hat in the ring. “A lot of people talk about doing, but unless you go out and do it, you can’t change anything,” Abbott said.
Abbott declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding his resignation from the ambulance service, but said he fully supported interim Director Joe McCole and the ambulance service. “We have a good service and we need to keep it going,” Abbott said.
Since his resignation, Abbott has worked as a firefighter and first responder for the Edgecomb Fire Department and as a paramedic with Woolwich Emergency Medical Services, and has provided paramedic support to other agencies. Abbott was influential in helping the Edgecomb Fire Department recertify its first responder unit.
If elected to the board, Abbott said his first order of business would be mastering the learning curve that new selectmen face. There are a number of issues that Wiscasset has struggled with over the years, Abbott said, and he hopes to learn the ins and outs of those issues and lay them to rest.
“I’m not going in with any agenda,” Abbott said. The redevelopment of the Point East properties, or Mason Station properties, in addition to the issues between the Wiscasset Municipal Airport and the Chewonki Campground, were two long-standing issues Abbott said he would like to see resolved.
Abbott called foreclosures “a necessary evil” and said they too needed to be dealt with. “It’s not fair for some people to pay and not others,” Abbott said. Abbott said he was in favor of the direction Chair Ben Rines proposed, which involved going after vacant lots and unoccupied or second homes first.
“That’s moving in the right direction,” Abbott said.
Abbott is in support of students learning about unmanned aerial vehicles, he said. He also noted how beneficial the technology could be for search and rescue operations.
Abbott is also strongly in favor of economic development along the Route 1 corridor, an area Wiscasset needs to focus on to lower the town’s tax rate, he said. Abbott is not in favor of the immediate sale of the former primary school, he said. He is in favor of renting and leasing the property, however, he would like to see the town hold onto the property until the school department is more settled, he said.
While his initial order of business will be listening and learning, Abbott said his role as a former department head has given him some background in how town departments are run and the issues they face, which are primarily related to the budget, he said.
Abbott said he would like to see town departments streamline more and share personnel and equipment between departments to accomplish tasks that benefit the entire community.
After a short hiatus from the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen, former Selectman Judy Colby is once again running to have the opportunity to serve the people of Wiscasset, she said. The Cleveland native moved to Wiscasset, her husband’s hometown, in 1968. The couple remained in Wiscasset until 1982 when they moved to Massachusetts and New Hampshire for work.
A graduate from New Hampshire College with a degree in business administration, Colby would spend the next 23 years working as a financial analyst for Raytheon. In her professional career, Colby was responsible for developing budgets and capital plans and working with the unions, she said.
“I did basically everything you do as selectman,” she said. Colby and her husband moved back to Wiscasset in 2005. Colby began a second career as a school bus driver, first for Wiscasset, then after consolidation, for RSU 12. She continued to drive for RSU 12 until this past June and currently works as a substitute teacher for Wiscasset and substitute driver for Wiscasset and RSU 12.
Colby served as selectman from 2010 to 2014. She also served on the budget committee for approximately four years. In her previous stint on the board, Colby started a new investment plan where interest from town investments could be put to work for capital planning.
“I am an advocate for capital planning,” Colby said. By using interest from investments, Wiscasset is able to repair and improve its infrastructure, town machinery, and vehicles without asking taxpayers for money, Colby said.
Maine Yankee, Mason Station, and the withdrawal from RSU 12 were the issues that dominated discussion during her tenure on the board, she said. Now that it is clear Wiscasset owns most of the Mason Station property, Colby said she would like to see commercial development on the property.
In addition to the Mason Station property, Colby said she would like to see more commercial development along Route 1 and Route 27. Noting the example of Topsham, which transformed from a small town to a city, Colby said she would like to see Wiscasset, especially Wiscasset village, remain small.
However, Colby said she would like to see commercial development in the areas of town that are suited for it and would like to enter into discussions with the Maine Department of Transportation over issues such as driveways and stoplights to make it easier for new businesses to build on Route 1 and Route 27.
Colby is familiar with the issues surrounding foreclosures, she said. Colby is in favor of going after vacant land, she said. However, noting the difficulty involved in evicting families from their homes, especially in the winter, Colby said she would like to see more outreach to families struggling with their tax bills.
Colby said she would like to understand why families are struggling and would like to see the town offer whatever assistance they can to help families get back on their feet. “It will take some creative thinking” to figure out how to help families facing foreclosure, but it will be worth the research, she said.
Colby said she would also like to work closely with the school committee to change the negative outlook many have toward the school department. “At one point in time, Wiscasset had one of the best schools in the state,” she said. She would like to see the Wiscasset School Department return to its previous status and develop programs that will attract students to Wiscasset.
“We need to invest in our schools, but that doesn’t necessarily mean money,” Colby said. “We need ideas.” Colby said she would like to see the board of selectmen and the school committee collaborate more, especially on financial issues.
On unmanned aerial vehicles, Colby said she did not know enough about the issue to comment. “I would have to research it and make my decision based on that research,” Colby said.
An open mind on the issues facing Wiscasset is something Colby said she could bring to the board. “I’m someone who will look at the issues from all sides and make decisions based on the facts,” Colby said. “I’m open to changing my mind if it’s in the best interest of the town and the people. That’s why I’m running, to serve the town and its people.”
David Flynn was born and raised in Millinocket, a town whose transformation after the loss of its tax base due to the closure of paper mills sparked his interest in politics. Flynn’s career as a state employee with the Department of Corrections also inspired him to get involved in politics, he said.
Flynn attended Bangor Community College in the early 1980s to pursue a degree in legal technology, the college’s law enforcement program at the time. He left school, however, to take a job with the Department of Corrections as a correctional officer for the Maine State Prison.
After 29 years, Flynn retired from the Department of Corrections, having achieved the rank of sergeant. Flynn relocated from Warren to Wiscasset approximately four years ago after meeting his current wife, he said.
His wife, Dr. Jean Beattie Flynn, is a small-business owner and operates Sheepscot Bay Physical Therapy in both Waldoboro and Edgecomb, David Flynn said. Since retiring, David Flynn has worked for Hammond Lumber and Molnlycke Health Care. He currently works as a driver for Hancock Lumber.
“I’m a civic-minded individual,” Flynn said. Flynn is active with the Warren Boy Scout troop, where his son is in the process of becoming an Eagle Scout, he said.
Flynn has long been interested in getting involved in politics, he said. The waste of tax dollars he witnessed as an employee for the Department of Corrections, in part, motivated his interest in politics. Flynn cited the $11 million the state spent to construct a new entranceway to the Maine State Prison just three years before the prison moved and the building was demolished as a particularly troubling project.
“We waste a lot of money in this state that’s not necessary,” Flynn said. Interested in serving in the Legislature, when a seat became available on the board of selectmen, Flynn decided to take hold of the opportunity.
According to Flynn, Maine is a big state geographically but very small financially and does not need the duplicate systems it has. “In this modern society, we can have better systems with less money,” he said.
Flynn questioned why there were so many different department heads in a town the size of Wiscasset. Flynn suggested exploring whether a single public safety administrator should be appointed to oversee the Wiscasset Ambulance Service, police department, and fire department as a cost-saving measure.
He also would like to see more streamlining between the town departments, noting the public works department and transfer station should share equipment.
Flynn questioned the town’s investment in the Wiscasset Municipal Airport, which he said only benefited a small portion of the population. “I personally don’t want to see a family business hurt,” he said. Flynn also said he felt that unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent shellfish poaching would be “an absolute waste of money.”
“Before we spend money on drones, the town needs a new police car,” Flynn said.
Flynn’s upbringing in Millinocket has made him familiar with the issues surrounding foreclosures, he said. Evictions, especially of older couples on fixed incomes, are not something he wants to do, he said. Flynn would want to make sure a reasonable process is followed and all possibilities are exhausted before the town pursues eviction, he said.
He also would like to see some commercial development on the Mason Station properties the town has ownership of, he said. According to Flynn, his position of an outsider in town will work to his benefit on the board of selectmen, because it will allow him to give an outside and objective perspective on the issues the town faces.
During his career in the Department of Corrections, Flynn said he learned how to do more with less, a principle that he intends to bring to the board.
“Wiscasset is a beautiful community with a lot to offer,” Flynn said. “We just need to figure out what’s best money-wise.”