Zaidman wins big; sewer and food pantry articles pass

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Selectmen race: one seat

Zaidman — 534

Murphy — 307

Hawkins — 198

After a vigorous last-minute campaign, write-in candidate Glen “Bear” Zaidman won a seat on the Bridgton Board of Selectmen Tuesday by earning 534 votes, easily surpassed incumbent Selectman Ken Murphy’s 307 votes and the 198 votes garnered by newcomer Karen Hawkins.

The outcome may have been foreseen by Murphy following the publication of several strong letters of support for Zaidman and a large ad in The News last week.

“Whatever happens, I want to thank this board for the opportunity to serve these past three years,” Murphy said during selectman’s concerns at Tuesday’s regular board meeting, just before polls closed. “It’s been a real fun time, and in three years I’ve learned a lot.” Offering some parting thoughts that may have been directed at Selectman Greg Watkins, he added, “I’ll say this: I’ll never micromanage the person in charge.”

Watkins and Selectman Bob McHatton had just finished a sparring match over Watkins’ self-described “fact-finding” e-mails to Town Manager Bob Peabody regarding a policy Watkins had brought forward in open meeting two weeks earlier, which the board failed to support. McHatton said selectmen “just can’t be bogging the town manager down” by tracking down answers to questions after meetings “if the three of us go against what you want to do.”

Watkins, one of the letter-writers supporting Zaidman, said he has the right to seek post-meeting clarification with the manager, particularly after being “discouraged to have a long list of selectman’s concerns” at meetings, when the answers might not be immediately known.

Turnout was about on par with 2015 elections, when Murphy’s brother Robert P. Murphy lost by one vote to McHatton in a three-way race for two open board seats. Watkins came in first with 475 votes.

Along with Watkins’ letter of endorsement, Zaidman’s write-in campaign was supported by former Selectmen Earl Cash and Art Triglione, who described Zaidman as a person of “integrity and knowledge.” Community Development and Land Use Planning Committee Chairman Chuck Renneker also wrote that Zaidman has shown, through his work on the Wastewater Committee and many other committees, that he has a lot of business and financial common sense and problem-solving ability.

Sewer Ordinance

Yes — 677

No — 446

Concerted effort by stakeholders and $10,000 in town funds for educational consulting paid off in passage of revisions to the Sewer Ordinance by a 677-446 vote. When voters rejected the ordinance revisions last November, selectmen and town staff redoubled their efforts to educate residents on how the changes in the sewer allocation method will free up capacity in the downtown system for current and future users. The current estimate of freed capacity is around 7,000 gallons, which is equivalent to seven new businesses at 1,000 gallons per day or 77 one-bedroom apartments.

The revisions will not affect taxpayers in general; rates will change among the system’s 73 users based on the new formula for determining allocation that replaces the old subsurface wastewater model with an equivalent user model. Two key changes are that those not currently using allocation for their property will be charged a “readiness-to-serve” fee, and that users now holding excess capacity in reserve will have to either use it on improvements/expansion or pay it back to the town by 2021.

Bridgton Food Pantry

Yes — 601

No — 501

In Tuesday’s closest vote, a citizens petition to fund $10,000 in support of the Bridgton Food Pantry for fiscal year 2016-2017 passed by a 601-501 vote. Selectmen had recommended a “no” vote, but that didn’t discourage the many supportive letter-writers and others who lobbied hard to win passage.

The board maintained that the funding support question should have been dealt with during the regular budget process, and some members questioned the pantry’s policy of providing food to any resident, regardless of income. But supporters equally questioned the board’s decision last year to cut the pantry’s funding from $10,000 to zero and instead provide $2,000 in FEMA grant funds.

The pantry, which serves 81 families weekly from Bridgton United Methodist Church, currently operates on a budget of around $1,000 a month and relies completely on donations and the efforts of 14 unpaid volunteers.

Taxes will go up by around $1 on a $100,000 home this fiscal year as a result of the vote. Although the question presumed annual funding support of $10,000 “starting in” 2016-17, the board’s position is that annual funding at any level is not guaranteed; the pantry will need to make a formal request for funding during each budget year.

Planning Board: two seats

Collins — 645

Brusini — 492

Pinkham — 437

Longtime incumbent Planning Board Chairman Steve Collins easily won reelection to the board with 645 votes, while the second seat went to Deborah Brusini with 492 votes, followed closely by Cathy Pinkham with 437 votes. Pinkham had served as an alternate board member for a year and was seeking a regular seat.

SAD 61 Director: two seats

Albert — 737

Eller — 674

Both the newcomer, Debra Albert, and the incumbent, Karen Eller, won seats on the SAD 61 Board of Directors. Albert got the most votes, with 737, while Eller wasn’t far behind at 674 votes.

Water District: one seat

Gorman — 942

Incumbent Bridgton Water District Trustee Wesley Gorman was uncontested in his bid to return as a trustee, winning 942 votes.

Ordinance revisions

Shoreland — 626-436

Site Plan — 623-425

Tower — 627-423

All three ordnance revision questions put forward by the Planning Board were easily passed, by a 677-446 vote on the Shoreland Ordinance, a 623-425 vote on the Site Plan Review Ordinance and a 627-423 vote on the Tower Ordinance.

Shoreland changes include updating the official map to include recent lot splits and adding a surveyor option if needed. Revised wording in the Site Plan Review Ordinance applied primarily to bringing the town in compliance with state law regulating medical marijuana, and other housekeeping changes. The Tower Ordinance changes clarifies the number of copies of documents needed when an applicant wants to revise a previously approved application.

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