Incumbent Arthur 'Skip' Harrington presents his case for re-election to the Maple Grove Civic Club.
John E. Duval
Arthur 'Skip' Harrington
The five Board of Selectmen candidates pitched their platforms on Sunday. The five candidates are running for two three-year seats.
ADAMS, Mass. — There was general agreement between candidates for the two selectmen offices that the town needs to more aggressively market itself as a recreational area and it was important the town move forward.
All five of those running appeared at the annual Maple Grove Civic Club candidates' forum on Sunday afternoon.
Appearing at the forum in the crowded PNA Hall were incumbent Arthur "Skip" Harrington, Richard Blanchard, Edward Driscoll, John Duval and Jeremy Halek.
Anyone running for office in the May 7 election was invited to attend. They included candidates for Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee, Steven Vigna; Parks Commission, incumbent James Fassell; library director, Eugene Michalenko; town clerk, incumbent Haley Meczywor, and town moderator, incumbent Joseph R. Dean Jr. and Ryan Biros.
Harrington, the current chairman and who is running for a second three-year term on the Board of Selectmen, pointed to challenges and successes during his first term.
"I love this town, I've enjoyed my three years as selectmen," he said. "I think, and I hope, everyone can agree that during my term as selectman, a lot — a lot — has gone positive for this community."
Harrington spoke of the decisions coming about facilities, such as the middle school and visitors center; the Summer Street project and his involvement with coming Park Street Streetscape Project; work on the library and old Town Hall; the changes at the Council of Aging and its programming expansion; the extensions of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail and the repairs made after Hurrican Irene.
Regarding last year's controversial attempt to cut the dispatchers, Harrington said a committee with representation from all the emergency services are involved, and lauded the town's first responders for the work during the hurricane.
"I have respect for those who have an opinion about the town of Adams," he said. "I may not always agree with your opinion, and you can't alway agree because you can't please everybody ... but I'll always listen."
Blanchard focused on the need to increase the tax base to offset the tax burden on residents.
"We've got to find a way to stop that," he said. I know it's easy to say; do I have a magic plan? No. But what I'd like to see is a little more marketing."
He said the town should do what it could to market the town as a recreational area and also attract outdoors retailer like Cabela's, adding that people drive for hours to shop at those venues.
Driscoll, who was on the board from 1995-2007, also thought the town should create a marketable identity along recreational uses. The Red Lion Inn might be the front porch, he said, "but maybe Adams is the back porch."
He took a shot at the current board with its handling of the dispatchers by telling how he'd been involved with the committee that worked to rebuild the waste-water treatment, saving the town millions. The research and collaboration had come first, not afterward, he said.
"I want to contrast the style of what we did at that time with what happened with the dispatchers," said Driscoll. "It's not the outcome but the style."
The Finance Committee vice chairman and member of the Northern Berkshire Solid Waste District pledged to ask the tough questions about expenditures and taxes and move the town forward.
"I want to see things move forward," Driscoll said. "That's what I want to see that's what I want to bring to the Board of Selectmen."
Duval, 17-year member of the School Committee and football coach, said the town needs to have strong leadership that supports new ideas and forward thinking in a positive way.
"We've had a lot of people try to hold things back," he said. "We need people onboard to work together ... I'm going to tell you what I think."
The School Committee isn't on television every other week, and that means residents aren't seeing the tough decisions being made, he said. Duval found himself defending the need for the $41 million Hoosac Valley High School renovation, saying it would have cost taxpayers more to fix the deteriorating high school and middle school. "It's on budget and on time," he said, adding the new school would draw students - and money - to the school district. "We need to show we have a great school system."
He, too, thought Adams should take advantage of marketing its outdoors resources, pointing to Berkshire Outfitters as an example.
"This is a great community, we've got great people in this community," he said. "We've got to sell this community to everybody you talk to ... come to Adams."
Halek, a town meeting member, said he would be accessible to citizens. A graduate of Berkshire Community College and Westfield University, he currently works for the Brien Center.
"Since I took out papers to run for for selectman, I've been going door to door listening to concerns important to them and their families," he said. Many of have spoke of their concerns for getting more businesses downtown and the future of the middle school. "I want to be approachable and accessible by listening to all residents and bring your concerns and ideas with me to the board."
Joseph R. Dean Jr., left, is hoping to fend off challenger Ryan Biros in the first race for moderator in some time.
Dean and Biros are running in the first race for moderator in recent memory, and in the only other race on the ballot.
Dean, a 28-year selectman, was elected after longtime moderator Anthony McBride stepped down in 2010. He brought the town budget book to remind voters that the moderator is responsible for more than running the annual town meetings. After years as a selectman working on budgets, he said it was an easy decision to "work on it on the other side."
"I have to be neutral and I have to let both sides get their point across," he said, listing some of the civic activities he's been involved in. "I do have an interest in the town."
Biros, a town meeting member and member of the Redevelopment Authority, spoke of his work in developing the town's user-friendly website with the past town administrator.
"I feel that as a moderator we have a great process," he said, pledging he would appoint Finance Committee members "in an unbiased way" and that he would work to get wireless microphones for town meeting so it will be easier for town meeting members to speak.
The election is May 7. The last day to register to vote is Tuesday, April 17; the town clerk's office will be open until 8 p.m. Absentee ballots are available until May 4.
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The state is holding a special election to fill the seat vacated by John F. Kerry, who has been confirmed as U.S. secretary of state.
The state primary is Tuesday, April 30. The last day to register to vote or to change party affiliation for the primary is Wednesday, April 10. Enrolled voters may only vote in their party primary; unenrolled voters may select a primary to vote in without changing their status.
The special election is scheduled for Tuesday, June 25. The last day to register to vote in the election is Wednesday, June 5.
To register to vote, one must be at least age 18 by the date of the election, a U.S. citizen and a resident of the municipality in which you are voting.