Letters to the Editor May 21

May 21, 2020

Why I am running for the Waldoboro Select Board

Since moving to Waldoboro 11 years ago, I have the pleasure of working as a volunteer on numerous of Waldoboro''s committees and Boards, including the Transfer Station Committee, the Planning Board (as chairman), the Economic Development Committee, the Communications Technology Committee, the EDC’s Renewable Energy Subcommittee (also as chairman), and the RSU40 School Board.

I continue to serve as a Board member for the Midcoast School of Technology. I have the opportunity to learn about many issues important to both our town government and Waldoboro residents.

I am also a small businessman, having created the BugTussle Brooder by repurposing the former Fieldcrest Nursing Home on Depot Street, and recently, the BugTussle Annex, located in the former Taction building on Jefferson Street, in the heart of the Historic Downtown Village District.

Last fall, I was able to bring the successor to Taction, the AnswerNet call center, a business that now provides something around 40 jobs, back to Waldoboro as a long term tenant at the Annex.

Having worked as a volunteer for years on Town committees and Boards, and having interacted with Town management and the Select Board many times, one of my biggest concerns is openness and transparency in our local government.

Unfortunately, as a town, we seem to be going in the wrong direction. For example, I was very concerned when the Town purchased a one million dollar used firetruck, without the prior approval of the voters. That's one heck of a lot of money, and I think the town's residents should've had a say in this expensive purchase decision.

Likewise, after spending close to $250,000 doing asbestos remediation and putting a new roof on the former A.D. Gray School building, in anticipation of the CLC Y becoming an occupant (a great idea), and thereby completely draining the Ann Kay Bailey recreational fund in the process, it concerns me greatly that there is now a move afoot by the administration and the Select Board to simply give this valuable town asset to a wealthy Portland developer, in hopes of creating some upscale condos, which would potentially generate some additional tax revenue.

To make matters even worse, steps were taken by the Select Board to make this whole process take place out of the eye of the public, e.g., in closed executive session, including even the meetings of the A.D. Gray Subcommittee. This is the antithesis of an open and transparent public process.

My guess is that it would take 10 or more years to earn back in taxes just the $250,000 already spent by the town on this property. My sense is that a better use for this property could be found, perhaps even as a centrally located Community Center and a new Head Start facility.

Speaking of which, in just the last four years, two almost identical town-wide surveys have been done of all Waldoboro households, one by the Medomak Valley Community Foundation, the other by the Town itself, the results of which have indicated, both times, something like 80% citizen support for the creation of a Waldoboro Community Center.

Unfortunately for Waldoboro residents, the apparent consensus of Town leadership is that we cannot and should not invest any public funds in such a community resource. And this was before the pandemic hit us and created serious new stresses on the Town’s budget.

In the words of former Town Manager Lee Smith 16 years ago: “I think this town needs to seriously think about what it wants to be.” I could not agree more. I think it is time that we asked ourselves: are there things that we could do as a town that would make Waldoboro even better than it already is?

As just one example, in these very difficult economic times, with so many forced to work and study at home, shouldn't the Town itself take a bolder and more proactive role in bringing truly affordable high speed broadband to all Waldoboro residents and businesses? Perhaps a regional cooperative effort would make most sense, as well as share the cost burden.

We can do it: we've done a terrific job cleaning up our precious Medomak River, thereby protecting and preserving the shellfish fishery that is so critical to a large number of Waldoboro families.

Let's build this record of hard work and success and create a few common spaces for residents to come together and enjoy our environment and each other’s company: how about a park and bandstand/gazebo at our beautiful new Town Landing? How about a Community Center that servers our kids, our young parents needing childcare, our teenagers needing a place to congregate after school and blow off steam, and of course, a place for our senior citizens gather, socialize, and exercise.

I believe that Waldoboro needs some new blood helping to manage its affairs, especially someone with some real-life planning and development experience. We've had enough of naysayer’s constant refrain of "we can't do that," or "fine, as long as someone else pays for it!"

Let's get creative and figure out how to make Waldoboro an even more attractive destination for families, small businesses, and even tourists.

Together we can do it; all we need is a little vision, and yes, a lot of work. I hope you'll consider supporting me for Waldoboro Selectman this July.

Seth Hall

Waldoboro

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