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Ossipee selectman candidates meet the voters

OSSIPEE SELECTMAN CANDIDATE Frank Riley answers a question during the Meet the Candidates event held last Monday evening, March 3, at Ossipee Town Hall. Also pictured here are (l-r) selectman candidates Kathleen Maloney and Stephen McConarty; Cemetery Trustee Sam Martin; Library Trustee candidates John Mingori and Joan O'Hara; Budget Committee candidate Martha Eldridge; and event moderator Selectman Harry Merrow. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
March 06, 2014
OSSIPEE — About 40 people attended the Meet the Candidates event in Ossipee last Monday evening, March 3, attentively listening to each candidate explain why they are seeking office, but asking few questions.

There is a three-way race for a three-year selectmen's seat. Political newcomer Stephen McConarty will be challenged by Kathleen Maloney and Frank Riley, both former Ossipee selectmen. Longtime selectman Harry Merrow chose not to seek re-election and served as moderator for the candidate's night event.

McConarty said he has been a business owner for 35 years and it is that experience, he said, that would make him a good selectman and the town should run like a business.

Jim Fitzpatrick, a member of the town's Budget Committee and the chair of the Old Home Week Committee asked the three selectman candidates what they would do to control the ever-rising town tax rate. According to his estimation, the tax rate has increased about 45 percent, or seven percent a year.

Maloney said she would work with town departments to control spending and that when she was selectman she "went through the budget with a fine-toothed comb." The challenge is, she said, how to keep providing services that people are used to while keeping the cost in check. Maloney acknowledged that he was correct when Fitzpatrick pointed out that Maloney was a selectman during the period of the 45 percent increase.

McConarty said if elected he would run the town "more as a business" and added "if you watch the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves. It's all going to add up." He said that the town doesn't need top notch equipment when it can get by with good enough equipment. What the town really needs, he said, is more people showing up and getting involved with how the town is run.

To Fitzpatrick's question, Riley said that "no one has the magic answer" and that he has been attending all of the selectmen's meeting and budget committee meetings this cycle and seen the selectmen working hard to manage the budget. Selectmen can do all the work, make cuts to the budgets, but it all comes down to what the voters want at Town Meeting, he said. And oftentimes, he has seen Town Meeting voters restore every bit of funding the selectmen have tried to cut to save money. "On the floor at Town Meeting, everyone has their pet projects," he said. He told the audience the "selectmen are working hard for you" as evidenced by the fact that Town of Ossipee currently has no long-term debt, something hard to find in a municipality.

The selectman candidates were asked if they have any ideas about how to encourage businesses to develop in Ossipee, ways to encourage economic development, and ways to support businesses already existing in Ossipee.

McConarty drew laughter when he pointed out one way he supports business is that he just purchased a restaurant in town, referring to the former Iron Kettle on Moultonville Road in Center Ossipee. He said the best way to help businesses is to keep taxes down. He added that the Main Street area in Center Ossipee used to be a beautiful place and now it's "depressing."

Riley said that towns often find themselves being selective as to what businesses they want in their towns and this can put a damper on attracting businesses if the town is viewed as unwelcoming. Economic development is an area that needs to be addressed he said and while he may not have any immediate suggestions, he is willing to work hard to bring new businesses to Ossipee. He said he thinks it is important to support Ossipee businesses and one of the best ways to do that is to make sure their property assessments are accurate and that all are treated fairly.

Maloney said pointed out the new revitalization corridor meant to offer State of N.H. business tax relief for businesses that move to certain section of town and create new jobs. But as for ideas, she said, "not off the top of my head on, not on a Monday night."

The three were asked about their ability to work as a team player on a board and agreed that communication and negotiation are most important. When asked how they would work to keep public information accessible and the working of town government transparent, Riley said he would work to keep all subject matter, "to the maximum extent possible" open and available to the public. "I don't agree with a lot of the work being done behind closed doors," he said. McConarty said he would like to see the Ossipee public meetings broadcast on public access television. Maloney answered, "I agree with Frank (Riley)."

Fitzpatrick asked the candidates their view on using the chemical treatments currently being used to treat milfoil in Ossipee Lake, something he said is shown to be safe and effective. Maloney has been outspoken about her resistance to the treatments, hesitant to believe they are safe. Riley and McConarty both said it would require more research on their parts to fully understand what is currently being done to treat milfoil. Both also agreed they would rely heavily on the science and the recommendations of state Department of Environmental Services. Fitzpatrick called "Lake Ossipee" the town's most valuable asset.

Ossipee resident Kevin Houle rebutted that, saying that the town's most valuable asset was Town Administrator Martha Eldridge but now she has retired. Houle's comment drew chuckles as well as a bit of clapping from the audience.

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