Sandwich News on Facebook and www.snyderssandwich.com bring you this Q & A with candidates for the Board of Selectmen in Sandwich. Answers are published in the order received. All answers were copied and pasted. No editing was done.
QUESTION 1 : Where do you stand on public safety buildings? Do you favor renovation of current buildings, or a new facility? Where would you site it (or them.)? Would you advocate for a debt exclusion override to pay for it?
David Darling : We need a solution to the issue of appropriate facilities for an EXPANDING force, both firemen and policemen. I am for building new facilities away from the flood plain and closer to the center of the population of Sandwich. But, I am not sure what is the perfect solution, maybe we will be able to find a good one. Those of us living in East Sandwich want a manned fire house closer than the main one in Sandwich Center. My current idea is to go with a public – private partnership that allows the town to do a lease-back contract. This means that the town will not have to float a bond. Land is available where the Wing School sits for a police station. Land is available near the Stop and Shop off Quaker Meeting House Road for a new fire station. And land is available at the high school.
Peter Beauchemin: I feel that we could solve the fire department public safety Issues by renovations to the existing buildings and by adding a substation for South Sandwich in the Farmersville Road area. The East Sandwich and Forestdale Stations need renovations to accommodate both male and female firefighters. The Headquarters Station have made upgrades recently and need a few more. The East Sandwich Station needs the most upgrades because it has never been used as a full time manned station. With these actions all sections of our town would have proper coverage.
The Police Station is a different story. Our existing Police Station has many safety defects that can be repaired and a lock-up that is not fit to put dogs in. These two Departments can be made perfectly adequate for the Town of Sandwich for a lot less than the proposed $30 million dollars. Until the actual cost is tallied it would be impossible to state how the project would be funded.
Jim Pierce : Public safety is a puzzle with six interlocking pieces: (A)staffing, (B)service to S.Sandwich, (C)service to E.Sandwich, (D)adequate emergency operations facilities, (E)a fire/EMS headquarters sized and located for the 21st century and (F) a police headquarters sized and designed for the 21st century. I believe it is time to stop second guessing the experts and build what is needed where it makes most sense BUT not all at once. The board of selectmen should propose a series of sequential debt exclusions to town meeting over the next 2-3 years.
QUESTION 2 : There's been some ill-will from the Board of Selectmen to the Finance Committee, and visa-versa. What would you suggest to try to bring these two boards in a more harmonious relationship? Or, do you think it's just fine the way it is? And, speaking of budgets, is there anything you'd change in the proposed 2016 budget?
David Darling : The role of the Finance Committee and who gets to serve is so different from my experiences in the Midwest. That said, the mission and actions of the Finance Committee are valuable and ideally play a constructive role in town governance. I personally have had difficulty pushing thru a meals tax because of resistance by the Finance Committee. However, it is this committee that pulls the two parts of town together, the town and gown. Thus, it comes down to leadership on the Finance Committee and leadership on the Board; they have to find common ground.
Peter Beauchemin: The Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee need to stop the power play and work together to solve the town’s fiscal problems. This is not to say that there should not be checks and balances between the two.
As of this writing, I have not seen a 2016 budget.
Jim Pierce : There has been some constructive discussion about the role of the FinCom. The town charter (Sections 4.2.5.c and 4.3.5.a) is very clear that the elected BoS and school committee are solely responsible for policy. The finance committee is free to question and criticize policy decisions at any time. But, the buck stops at charter section 4.2.3.e "The board of selectmen shall set guidelines for the preparation of the annual budget and present the budget to town meeting."
What would I suggest? The charter, 7.1.g, also calls for the town manager to review the assumptions underlying the next budget for the BoS and FinCom before June 15. The finance committee should use that as an opportunity to question those assumptions. The charter, 7.1.a, calls for the town manager and school superintendent to prepare a budget forecast for the BoS, SC and FinCom soon after surplus revenue is certified and October 1 enrollment is established. The finance committee should use that as an opportunity to raise concerns early. The charter, 7.1.c, calls for the BoS to meet with the SC to set guidelines for the budget early in December. The finance committee should voice any concerns they may have at or after that meeting. The finance committee can use their annual budget statement (Section 7.2.b) to further question policy. In short, the finance committee should view the budget as a year long process, but, they should not expect a vote on policy decisions. The charter provides ample opportunity for FinCom involvement. Change this years budget? No, the BoS, SC and FinCom have gotten it right.
QUESTION 3 : What do you feel are Sandwich's best assets? Biggest deficits? What would you propose specifically to strengthen the town?
David Darling : Sandwich’s biggest asset is its location. We need a third bridge to strengthen this asset. The biggest deficits are the depreciated physical infrastructure including the canal bridge. A challenge that if met is to repurpose the land and maybe part of the Wing School. One idea is to set up two planning/brainstorming events to create ideas we a can act on. One group will consider the best use of the land as if no structures are on the site and the other will consider how best to repurpose part of the existing structures and all of the land. Planners call these events charrettes. Also, I am in favor of another Charter Review to look at representative government. Finally, it is time for the Local Comprehensive Plan to be updated using a multi-stakeholder strategic planning process.
Peter Beauchemin: Our best assets include our location for easy access to Boston and Providence for commuters. Our recreational water facilities include; numerous fresh water lakes and ponds plus a great marina for boating and fishing. Our boardwalk is an attraction known far and wide. Downtown Sandwich has been designated as a cultural center. We have many fine restaurants and places of historical interest.
Some deficits include poorly maintained local roads. Our beaches are no longer so beautiful, because of uncontrolled erosion. Our real estate taxes are the highest on Cape Cod. We must strengthen our town by creating an atmosphere that will attract businesses that pay good wages and are for profit. This will help with Employment and increase our tax base.
Jim Pierce : The biggest asset is location, location, location. Sandwich is a "bedroom" town to Boston with what is historically and geographically a Cape Cod life style. Demographics determine the need for public services. Economics determine the availability of revenue to fund services. I'm not thrilled, but, Sandwich has become a South Shore town on this side of the bridge. Sandwich needs to accept that. Our biggest deficit is voter apathy. Voters in general don't appear willing to engage and become informed about issues. Is that a failure of leadership or a lapse in civic responsibility?
I am inherently suspicious of anything that moves power further from the voters. However, if the voters are determined to voluntarily disenfranchise themselves, then I believe we should consider representative town meeting .
QUESTION 4 : Do you think the Board of Selectmen should sponsor "coffees", where individual Board members can meet with residents in a relaxed atmosphere to discuss town issues, off the record?
David Darling : Yes. Each selectmen should make themselves available. This can be done in an alternating pattern, maybe before the regular Board meetings.
Peter Beauchemin: I do not think anything concerning town issues should be discussed anywhere off record.
Jim Pierce : Elected officials should always be striving to improve communications. Scheduled "informal coffees" might work. Letting the voters drive that might be better. Given a few days notice, I'm open to an invitation anytime someone wants to have a few neighbors over to talk town issues. My phone number is in the book. Beyond that I respond to constituents e-mails. I moderate comments on www.jimpierce4sandwich.org I can claim a lead role in making the selectmen's long range plan available in each TM warrant since 2011. The local papers have published at least 25 articles by me on various town issues over the last six years. Many of them are "reprinted" on my website. I've made several videos on various town issues, most also available on this website. There are two public forums at each BoS meeting.
QUESTION 5 : Many residents of Service Road were upset with the lack of action by the Board to prevent National Grid from removing their trees. Residents around Heritage Museum were upset about the zip line attraction soon to be offered there. Do you think the Board of Selectmen served those residents properly?
David Darling : Yes, the Board has served us well but town staff and our past representative on the Cape Cod Commission Board did not do their jobs correctly. I also fault the Historic District Committee and the ZBA.
Peter Beauchemin: I feel that both the Service Road residents and the Heritage Plantation neighbors, have a good reason to be upset with the Board of Selectmen. I do not feel that the Board was diligent in the reviewing of these projects.
Jim Pierce : That is the wrong question. The right question is: were the best interests of the entire community well served in those cases?
The BoS worked to negotiate the best possible deal regarding safety features like remote shutoffs and mitigation for lost vegetation. Then the BoS unanimously chose not to risk ensnaring the town in a potentially costly and certainly futile attempt to override the energy facilities siting board. The EFSB was set up by the state legislature specifically to sweep local officials aside in such cases. Civilization requires infrastructure. Infrastructure is physical and has to be someplace. Someplace is always somebody's neighborhood. The Commonwealth says the proposed pipeline serves the greater good. I agree.
In the Heritage case, the BoS chose not to intervene in what was destined to be a civil dispute between neighbors. The courts will eventually rule on who, if anyone, was damaged and award compensation or require remediation. It is not good policy for a town to interfere in civil matters.
QUESTION 6 : What do you bring to the table as a member of the Board of Selectmen? What experiences do you have that you feel would serve the people of Sandwich? Why should a resident give you their vote?
David Darling : I serve as an elected official on the Planning Board. I retired and moved to town in 2008 after a long career as a specialist in community and economic development in three mid-west states.
Our town, Sandwich, is in a crisis. But it is a crisis of our own making. Our town form of government is not working. We should consider a representative form such as used in Falmouth. Our leadership and management have not served us well. We are spending too much on educating a shrinking number of youth and not investing enough on roads, buildings, and other town infrastructure. And then there is the huge issue of loss of beaches and marsh land along the coast.
I will listen and respect your opinions and be the leader who has the ability to move from ideas to action.
I truly care for the Town of Sandwich. It is my home town. I served for 33 years as a town firefighter.
I have been a member of the Sandwich Housing Authority for 5 years.
I am interested in the Townsfolk and their ideas and visions for our town.
I pride myself in being a good listener and after much thought I make commonsense decisions.
Jim Pierce : I bring a lifetime of experience in pragmatic, collaborative problem solving. I prefer to base decisions on data. But, I recognize that when one decides is sometimes more important than what one decides. From my college days through grad school and my years as an individual scientist, I solved technical problems. When I found myself managing groups of scientists, I solved problems. Some were driven by technical considerations others by human relationships. When I found myself managing business units dependent on science, financial considerations were added to the human and technical elements. For detail see my bio at www.jimpierce4sandwich.org
I brought those problem solving skills to the BoS six years ago. I used those tools to take the lead in formulating the selectmen's long range plan as it was first printed in the May 2011 TM Warrant. The May 2015 update was just posted on the town website. It is pragmatic in that it is based in today's reality not theory. It is collaborative in that it includes input from the schools and all other departments. And, it's working as evidenced by our ability to improve public safety staffing and put some money in the stabilization fund without resorting to going outside proposition 2.5.
I would appreciate your vote in order to continue applying those principles derived from experience to resolving other issues including public safety facilities, infrastructure needs, beach erosion and future uses for the Wing School.
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