OXFORD — Ensuring the financial stability of the town topped the concerns of residents who turned out Tuesday night, June 6, to hear the views of three candidates for the Board of Selectmen.
About 50 people appeared at the Oxford Recreation Center on King Street for the the Meet the Candidates Night to ask questions of candidates Mark Blaquiere, Dana Dillingham and Ernest “Ed” Knightly that ranged from taxes to budgets to sewer hookups, Oxford Casino money disbursements and much more during the nearly two-hour event.
The forum was moderated by Connie Staples, recreation director, but was strictly an opportunity for residents to ask questions.
Each candidate is seeking the one available seat on the Board of Selectmen at the Tuesday, June 13 annual town election, that is being vacated by retiring veteran Selectman Roger Jackson. Polls will be open at the Municipal Safety Building on Route 26 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Resident Tom Cushman grilled the candidates about how they would handle the growing concerns over paying for the wastewater treatment plant’s operation.
“I think we need help. If we don’t get hookups we’re all going to have to pay,” said Knightly when asked how he and the other two candidates would handle the situation as selectman.
While Dillingham said the plant is a necessary part of the town’s infrastructure to bring more businesses to town he acknowledged the problem of getting new customers.
“There’s no backing out now. We can’t just close it up,” he said.
Blaquiere said he understands people’s concern about it, adding he thought residents were assured from the start that this would be user-based operation.
“I shouldn’t have to pay for something I don’t use,” he said.
“I was totally against it,” he continued. “If someone tells me it won’t cost me anything, I believed them. Not anymore.”
Knightly said town officials should have known from the beginning they would not have enough customers.
“No one did any research,” he said.
The candidates also had strong views on the use of the Casino money and how to contain escalating department budgets.
“The money on the [Pigeon] Hill is not guaranteed,” said Knightly. “If you don’t need it don’t buy it. If they (the Oxford Casino) closes, it’s not going to be pretty.”
“We need to prioritize spending, buy what we need and work on other things as we can,” Dillingham said.
Blaquiere said Casino money should be used and not set aside as a “rainy day fund.” “It has to be put back into the town.”
The candidates all agreed that they are independent thinkers and would be open to comments from the public at their meetings during the public comment time and by mail, phone or other means.
“We (selectmen) work for you,” said Blaquiere.
They each agreed that residents needs answers about the budget.
Regionalization of certain town departments or functions, such as the fire departments, should be considered the candidates agreed.
“We have more apparatus than we have drivers,” said Blaquiere, who is a former Oxford firefighter who now works for the Paris Fire Department. The three towns, Oxford, Norway and Paris each own a ladder truck that, he said, are rarely used at the same time.
“That’s $3 million to go to a parade,” he said, as an example.
When asked how the candidates might work to keep young people in town, Blaquiere said keep taxes down; Dillingham bring more businesses into town including the smaller ones that make Oxford a community. Knightly agreed, saying bring more businesses to town.
Each candidate agreed that some short- and long-term planning needs to be done for the future good of the town.