THOMASTON — The future of the Thomaston Green dominated discussion at candidate night Wednesday, May 18.

Two three-year positions are available on the Thomaston Select Board, with five residents running. The two candidates with the most votes will win the seats.

Incumbents Sandy Moore and Bill Hahn are both running for reelection. Also running are residents Bill Wasson, Chris Hirsch and Kim Matthews.

Thomaston Select Board Incumbent Bill Hahn. photo by Christine Simmonds

Hahn has been a member of the Thomaston Select Board for more than ten years. He has lived most of his life in Thomaston as an active member of the community and a business owner. Hahn is a current member of the Economic Development Committee and a Watts Block Trustee.

Hirsch has lived in Thomaston part-time since 1995 and full-time since 2011. He has a background in the medical field as a provider and administrator. Hirsch is currently a Watts Block Trustee and a member of the Georges River Land Trust trail’s committee.

Matthews grew up in Thomaston and has lived there most of her life. She is a member of the budget committee, the planning board and the recreation committee. She has been a member of the Rockland Emblem Club for 35 years and is the current president.

Moore has been a member of the Thomaston Select Board for three years. Moore has spent the last few years facilitating grant opportunities for the town. This includes grants for personal protective equipment, one to purchase and plant 28 trees in town, and a grant to purchase the historic kiln property on the Saint George River.

Thomaston Select Board candidate Bill Wasson. photo by Christine Simmonds

Wasson is the former Code Enforcement Officer for Thomaston. He recently retired after working for the town for nine years. Wasson has served on the school board and the planning board, and was closely involved in the renovations for the Thomaston Municipal Building.

Wasson was unable to attend due to a medical issue. Moderator Audrey Lovering read a prepared statement on his behalf.

Wasson said he was concerned that the town seemed to spend a lot of money on special projects that the public may not know about or support. “These decisions are made too quickly,” he said.

Wasson added that if elected he would make himself available one day each week to meet with residents and discuss issues.

Each candidate said they supported preserving a portion of the Green, but not the entire space. Each candidate also said their main concern with the citizen’s initiative that the town will vote on in June is the word “permanent.”

Thomaston Select Board incumbent Sandy Moore. Photo courtesy of Sandy Moore

Moore said she was a big proponent for green space and outdoor recreation. She said issues like bathrooms and electricity need to be determined for the space still as well.

Hirsch said permanent is a long time, and the needs for the space could change in the future. He suggested looking at the Green as a place for the town fire station or emergency medical services building.

Matthews also supported the fire station going in the space, and said she was still unsure how she would vote in June. She wondered where the money to maintain the permanent park would come from if it passes.

Hahn said he was “in the room on the first day” when the town began discussing the purchase of the land. Hahn said he knows many people only voted to buy the land with the idea that there would eventually be commercial development that benefitted the town financially.

Hahn said he would always support developing the Green, as he made a commitment to those he started this process with.

On the issues of taxes and the town budget, the candidates had differing ideas and opinions.

Hahn pointed to the solar array project as a way the town has saved money. In about fifteen years, he said, that project will be producing electricity for the town that is “darn close to free.”

Hahn also said the select board has very little discretionary funds they can spend without voter input.

Thomaston Select Board candidate Kim Matthews. Photo by Christine Simmonds

Matthews said her experience on the budget committee taught her the town could not lower taxes if they want to pay town staff competitive wages. Instead, there were other ways the town could save money such as not spending money on items like the North Road feasibility study.

Hirsch said he would need the input from the town and the residents to address taxes and the budget.

Moore said she is always asking questions about where the town is spending money, and said she looks for grants or other funding to pay for these items before using taxpayer money.

Some questions from the audience centered around the ongoing housing crisis and how the town should address this problem.

Hahn said there are some changes the town can make to address housing, such as changing zoning and lot sizes. He mentioned the land swap article that is being voted on to potentially create workforce housing.

Matthews said many items on the ballot this June are designed to address the housing crisis, such as the land swap article. She said this work should continue.

Thomaston Select Board candidate Chris Hirsch. photo courtesy of Chris Hirsch

Hirsch said there is some work beginning locally, such as the Ripple Inn in Rockland being converted to workforce housing. He said he would support any work the select board could do to accommodate workforce housing.

Moore said this is not a problem unique to Knox County, and it might be time to work with other towns on the issue, and see how they are addressing it. She also supported lifting certain restrictions so more housing can be built.

The candidates also discussed transparency and working with other members of the Select Board.

Moore said the felt the whole board should be more open. She said decisions should be made with the whole board, not just the board chair and the town manager.

Moore said she has received calls from residents more than once asking about town decisions of which she was not aware.

Hirsch said the board and the town needs to rethink how they address problem solving, and often their approach is too polarizing.

Matthews said the board is a team, and they should listen to each other and need to find solutions together.

Hahn said members of the board should be working with and listening to the town manager.

Voting on Tuesday, June 14, is by secret ballot from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Municipal Building.

The secret ballot articles are the elected officials and two articles regarding the Thomaston Green.

On is a citizen’s initiative to make the space a “permanent park.” The other article is a counter warrant article written by town lawyer Paul Gibbons.

A public hearing and information night on these articles and the land swap article is scheduled for Wednesday, May 25, at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Building.

In addition to the select board, one three-year term on the board of assessors and one three-year term on the RSU 13 school board are available.

An open Town Meeting will be held the next night, Wednesday, June 15 at 6 p.m., where Thomaston residents will hold open discussion and vote by show of hand.

Warrant articles for the Town Meeting are budget items, a land swap to make workforce housing, and ordinance amendments.

A recording of the candidate night event can be viewed at townhallstreams.com/towns/thomaston_me.

Thomaston Select Board candidates. Photo by Christine Simmonds

The crowd at Thomaston Select Board candidate night, May 18. Photo by Christine Simmonds