P/cloudy
49°
P/cloudy
Hi 62° | Lo 40°

Four Seek 2 Seats In Newport Race

Voting on the Newport Town Meeting warrant is Tuesday, May 13, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Newport Opera House.

Newport — A contested race for two seats on the Selectboard and a $9.14 million operating budget are among the articles on the Town Meeting warrant to be decided during all-day balloting next Tuesday.

The budget is one of several appropriations on the warrant. Town Manager Paul Brown said if voters pass all spending articles, the town portion of the tax rate would remain at $11.56 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Selectman Bill Wilmot, appointed last fall to complete the three-year term of Beverly Rodeschin, who resigned for health reasons, is on the ballot along with David Hoyt, the town’s former police chief, Mike Clark, a small business owner, and former town Department of Public Works employee Steve Dube.

The two top vote-getters will win three-year seats on the board.

Incumbent Virginia Irwin is not seeking reelection to the five-member board.

Wilmot, 53, was a member of the Claremont Police Department for 25 years before retiring in 2005. He continues to work part-time for the department as its accreditation and grants administrator.

“I volunteered to fill out Beverly’s term because I was looking for something interesting and challenging,” Wilmot said. “In the last six months, I have met with the department heads to understand what their pressing issues are and their goals.”

Wilmot said he has no specific agenda but is seeking a full-three year term to continue “serving the community as well as I can.

“I want to help in these lean economic times and work to level fund the budgets,” said Wilmot, who also wants to work on developing a more “cooperative” spirit between the Selectboard and school district.

Hoyt, 55, retired as the town’s police chief about three years ago after running the department for 19 years. He is a justice of the peace and does part-time work as a bail commissioner through the state court system. Hoyt, who said he has been asked by residents in prior years to run, said there are areas of overspending in the town budget that need to be addressed.

“I think the Selectboard did a great job this year level funding (the tax rate) and I see projects being completed,” said Hoyt, who is on the board of directors of Newport’s Opera House Association. “I want to see that continue. But I think operations can be improved, and there is overspending in some departments that is unnecessary.”

If elected, Hoyt said he can strike the right balance between fiscal restraint and reinvesting in the community.

“I want to work as a team and assist in keeping taxes low but at the same time, accomplish the things we need to get done,” he said.

Clark, 52, owns a landscaping business. A previous member of the Planning Board, Clark said business experience gives him a different background than the other candidates.

“I think I bring a different perspective,” Clark said. “I am the only one who has not worked for a town, and I think that is an important difference and is an opportunity.”

Roads are among the issues Clark said he would focus on.

“I am happy with them,” he said, “but I’d like to see more improvement and I will always keep an eye on taxes.”

Several messages left for Dube were not returned.

Proposed Budget

The proposed $9.14 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is up nearly $444,000, or about 5 percent, from the current year’s. Most of that increase, $250,000, is earmarked for paving. Last year, voters approved a warrant article for the same amount for paving, and Brown said the Selectboard included the money in the budget this year.

Welfare direct assistance is up $29,000, to $154,700, and the other significant increases are in water and sewer for capital improvements, but those are paid for with user fees, not taxes.

On the revenue side, non-tax sources are estimated to increase about $200,000, essentially wiping out any increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes.

Should the budget be defeated, the default budget is $8.71 million.

Also among the 17 articles on the warrant are three-year contracts for police and public works union, which include a 2.5 percent increase in pay plus step increases for police. Neither has had a contract since June 2012.

When voters decide on two articles related to parking near Newport’s common, Brown said, they should understand there are no plans or proposals currently under consideration to add parking on the north or east side of the common.

“It is just to get a sense of the meeting,” Brown said. “We want to know, is this an option?”

Parking in the area is lacking, especially when events are held at Richards Library or Towle School.

Cars are allowed to park on the north end of the common when there is ice skating. If voters agree, the town would explore a plan for year-round parking for about a dozen cars at the same location. Article 16 asks voters if they are interested in developing a plan for permanent parking between the trees and Park Street on the east side of the common.

Other appropriations on the warrant include $20,000 for upgrading communications antennas on town hall; $175,000 for a three-year lease for a new highway truck ($60,000 the first year); $5,000 for a newly created communications system capital reserve fund; and $5,000, by petition, for the transportation services provided by the Community Alliance of Human Services.

A petition article seeks to discontinue the class 6 portion of Edgell Road, which is about a half mile.

Brown said it does not make sense for the town to keep it because it is not maintained or used.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com