Bridgton selectman race: 3 candidates for 2 seats
By Wayne E. Rivet
When Bridgton voters go to the polls on Tuesday, June 13, the ballot has just one contested race — selectman.
Three candidates seek seats for the next three years. They are incumbent Robert P. Murphy and challengers G. Frederick Packard and William Vincent.
The News met with the three candidates and asked the following questions:
Q. Why did you decide to run for the board of selectmen?
Murphy: When Murphy decided to fill out the remaining six months of Paul Hoyt’s term, he wanted to be “a different voice” for the people. While there was some “trial and error,” Murphy sees the current board making steady progress in addressing a variety of issues. He wants to remain part of that growing momentum.
“We’re progressing, and I’d like to be part of keeping it going in that direction,” he said. “What I would like to see is the town attract small businesses — 20 to 30 employees — and also a hotel.”
Packard: Serving 21 years on the town’s planning board, working as a real estate appraiser and having graduated from Bridgton High School in 1964, Packard believes he has the knowledge and historical background to help guide the town over the next three years.
He left public service because he was “physically tired,” but now is re-energized, in semi-retirement, and eager to once again serve the town he feels strongly about.
Vincent: Having served as a member of the Budget Committee, Comprehensive Plan Committee and Land Use Committee, Vincent heard Bernie King was giving up his seat and decided to run for office. He is very interested in municipal happenings, as well as the continued growth of Bridgton. His interest was piqued when the town became engaged in hot debate over the arrival of McDonald’s. Vincent spent many nights as various board meetings, including Comprehensive Plan meetings which he often found himself as the “designated member of the public” present. When the committee lost several members, Vincent joined the group. “Why not, I was always at the meetings anyway,” he said.
“I see a lot of things being dragged out. I’m not a big fan of doing things a certain way just because that’s how it always has been. I want to see things move along and see this town continue to grow.”
Q. What strengths would you bring to the position?
Murphy: With experience and knowledge of matters that selectmen will continue to address in the months ahead, Murphy also sees his background as a contractor as a plus when such issues arise.
Packard: Familiarity with current board members is a plus in Packard’s mind. “I know I can work with all of the board members because I have worked with them in some capacity over the years,” he said. “I feel I have a lot to offer, and I have no personal reasons as the basis of my seeking the position.”
Vincent: As a former member of the U.S. Navy, Vincent has had the chance to see the world and many parts of this country. Yet, if asked where he would go if he could pick any place on the planet, he would select Bridgton. “I have a real love for this town, this area,” he said. That passion for his hometown, Vincent said, translates to him working hard for taxpayers in trying to make Bridgton the best place to reside.
As a contractor (he is in the tile business, Creative Ceramic and Marble), Vincent feels he can lend his expertise as the town addresses many infrastructure issues, such as the streetscape project.
“I also am good at talking with people,” he said. “People know where I stand, I don’t mince words, I won’t hold back.”
Q. What do you see as being the three major issues facing Bridgton?
Murphy: At the top of the list is sewer system expansion.
“It’s a top priority. It’s going to cost us some money, but there is funding out there to help out if we just ask for it,” he said, “but, we need to show we are ready to do something about it.”
Murphy would also like to see a major hotel developed here. When certain events occur here — such as summer camp Parents’ Weekend and Bridgton Academy’s graduation — lodging options are somewhat limited, Murphy feels. “Many people leave Bridgton and seek out hotels in Portland or North Conway. Why not keep them here, which would be a benefit for the town?”
Murphy is a big supporter of small town industry and maintaining agricultural opportunities.
Packard: No question, the sewer system is the key issue, at the moment. “Without an expansion, Bridgton can’t grow. An expansion will allow the town to serve up to 800 clients. Right now, we’re at capacity at 90. It needs to happen,” Packard said.
Packard also supports suggestions made by current Selectman Bear Zaidman that when sewer work gets underway, the town should also tie in other work, such as sidewalk renovation. He sees a need in sidewalk improvement, both from a walking perspective as well as the “eye look” from a tourist’s standpoint.
Vincent: In Vincent’s mind, the major issues are all rolled into one package — sewer expansion, streetscape work and land use controls — plus one.
“They are all tied together. Once the sewer expansion is approved, we will see this town really grow. When it happens, we really need controls in place,” he said. “There are those that don’t want to see any zoning. I spoke with one woman who was against zoning and had to fight a proposed car repair shop near her home a couple of years ago. There was no way to stop it. By a stroke of luck, the applicant was unable to take care of a few things and it didn’t go through. Zoning would have helped her situation.”
Vincent feels many people don’t understand the goal of creating controls to guide growth.
“People don’t want to be told what they can do with their properties. The Land Use Committee went to great pains to not tell people what to do. It’s not so much as telling what one can and can’t do, but shape how the town will move forward,” Vincent said. “You always hear people saying they want to keep the town the way it’s always been. Well, look at the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. It’s been different each decade. Look at Main Street over the past 15 years and see how it has changed. This town has been in constant flux for the past 40 years. Nothing stays the same. You can become stagnant and move backwards, or you can move forward and see your town grow.”
Vincent sees the town in a great spot to continue to reshape its downtown look by working with the Maine Department of Transportation. The MDOT is renovating Route 302 and will be willing to share in some expenses as Bridgton remakes its downtown.
The “plus one” Vincent referred earlier to is the need for the community to continue to take a hard look at the opioid crisis, and bring all groups and citizens together to seek out answers and possibly help develop programs to help those fighting addiction.
Q. Offer your views on the proposed marijuana moratorium (up for voter action this June); the proposed Land Use Ordinance (on the November ballot); and the economic development director position (the town is in the process of interviewing potential candidates to succeed Anne Krieg)?
Murphy: On the marijuana moratorium, Murphy supports time to develop standards, and does not want to see retail outlets open. He does support doctor prescribed use.
On the Land Use Ordinance, he is “bothered” by some sections, and feels more work/adjustments need to be made to the document.
As for the economic development director, Murphy believes the position is needed, but the town must find the “right person” for the job, even if it takes several months to do so.
Packard: Seeing marijuana as a “political football” that is still being kicked around at the state level in terms of how to regulate its use and sale, Packard sees a need to enact a moratorium to allow the town time to address the issue.
As for the Land Use Ordinance, Packard wonders if the current document has enough “flexibility” to address some issues. He would like to see it “more straight-forward” and in “plain English” so local residents have a better idea what “it all means.”
As for the economic development director, Packard poses the question, “What does the town really need, a planner or economic director? I think we need a person whose focus is on what things we need to have done — does it fit with what we are doing?”
Vincent: On the marijuana moratorium, Vincent believes time is needed for local officials to consider how to address possible social clubs, etc.
As to the Land Use Ordinance, Vincent strongly encourages residents to supply comments and offer input regarding the proposed standards before the document is finalized Aug. 1.
“We need to hear what people think regardless if we (the committee) like it or not,” said Vincent, pointing out that the group has worked two years to develop land use standards. He noted that the committee plans to pen several informational pieces for publication in October, to give voters a clear understanding what the document says, its goal and how the committee reached those conclusions.
In regards to an economic development director, Vincent felt previous planner Anne Krieg had too many matters placed on her plate.
“We know this town is going to really grow. It will happen. It is a matter of when. We need people and standards in place to help us with this growth,” he said.