Incumbent Faces 2 Challengers in Claremont Ward III Race
Claremont — Two-term incumbent Nick Koloski is pleased voters in Ward III will have a choice on who will represent them on the City Council the next two years and laments that not all the races are contested.
Brent Ferland, part owner of a family business, and Walter White, 72, who worked in the propane field and is now retired, are challenging Koloski.
Positions for mayor, assistant mayor, Ward I and Ward II only have one candidate. There are 11 candidates for four, at-large seats on the nine-member council in the Nov. 5 election.
Koloski, 36, is part owner of the Time Out Sports Bar on Mulberry Street. He is also a call firefighter in Claremont, a volunteer with the Ascutney Volunteer Fire Department and serves on the 250th Anniversary Committee, the conservation commission and Governor’s Task Force for Recruitment and Retention of a Younger Workforce.
Koloski said his interest in a third term is to continue much of the work he has been a part of since being elected to the council.
“I am running because we have so much more that needs to be accomplished here for our city to remain competitive with our neighbors and to attract businesses and industry to increase our tax base,” he said. “My past experience would show if I believe it to be in the best interest of the taxpayer, I will ask it and I will follow through on it.”
Ferland, 36, also thinks voters “deserve a choice.” He sees one of the council’s main roles as keeping a close eye on the bureaucracy.
“The job of the City Council is to hold the bureaucracy accountable,” he said, adding that he is running to “give back to Claremont” and sees his people skills and common sense the most important attributes he will bring to the position.
“The biggest problem I see with the city is maintenance,” said Ferland, who helps run Four Pines Quilting. “We have a fancy parking garage but Main Street in either direction, when pulling out, is a minefield and requires road suspension to handle the worn out pavement.”
Though maintenance is not “sexy,” Ferland said, it is a critical piece to keeping spending under control.
“It is more cost effective to maintain than to rebuild. We need to have realistic maintenance budget and then not raid (it) for emergencies or play the fiscal shell game.”
White, who is vice president of the Congress of Claremont Senior Citizens and on the board of the local AARP chapter, said he is a “common sense guy that wants to make a difference.”
“I think there’s a need for positive change on the council.,” he said. “I would like to see big spending controlled more by voters, not a few making a $10 million decision.”
White was referring to the vote of the council in September 2011 to bond $5.7 million to help finance construction of the new community center. At the time there were calls from some residents to put the question to a voter referendum.
Taxes head the list of issues that White said he wants to address as a councilor.
“I hear a lot of negative around town,” he said. “People are not happy with the taxes, there is too much spending and they don’t like the present leadership.”
Koloski makes no apologies for voting for the community center bond, though he does wish the city’s form of government allowed for a community vote.
“Spend some time up there as I do and talk to people,” he said. “It is healthy, social and affordable. It is a new sense of community pride, and I am reminded naysayers never built a great enterprise.”
If he wins re-election, Koloski said, he would continue focusing on some of the issues that are before the council and has a long list of other ideas as well.
“We need to get more city-owned property listed and back on the tax rolls,” he said, citing one area where he thinks the council has fallen short. “If you owned multiple pieces of vacant property as an individual or business, would you just sit on it and let it deteriorate or would you look to sell it off and make some money for yourself?”
Koloski said he expects improvement, not status quo, and to that end he pushed to tighten welfare rules so building owners whose properties are not up to code cannot receive city money for rents.
“This new measure has uncovered what I have been seeing and (what) in my opinion was abuse of the system.”
Koloski would also like to see the city advertise itself more through social media such as Facebook and create a more welcoming atmosphere at the planning office by moving the reception area upstairs.
Koloski said he is an independent voice, representing all residents not just those in his ward.
While he backs the current administration, Koloski said, he has not been afraid to challenge the city manager.
“The city manager and I have had open battles during meetings. I’m not there to not question and I’m sure as hell not there to rubber stamp things set in front of me.”
Koloski addressed reports that his business owed the state thousands in rooms and meals taxes.
“It stems from a payment in 2010,” he said.
“Payments that had been sent were not credited and thus interest and penalties applied which drastically inflated what was actually due. We ended up paying over $3,700 in interest and penalties. It has since been corrected and there are no actions against our business.”
Ferland said the passage of the community center bond would not have been as “shocking” had the voters not rejected a bond to renovate the high school in 2010. “The council thinks that everyone wants a community center, which is not nearly as necessary as a school. It goes back to common sense.”
For White, spending and taxes will be his priorities.
“Things can’t keep going the way they are,” he said. “Taxes go up every year. Even a few cents cut is a start. It won’t be an easy solution. It is going to be a long-term solution.”
When visitors come to his business, Ferland said, he has heard the comment, “ ‘This is really nice store, especially for Claremont.’ It is as if Claremont is not supposed to have nice things. I want residents to expect more of their city so we all rise to the challenge.”
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.