Adams Election: Former selectman, two incumbents, seek two open seats
NORTH ADAMS — Three candidates, all familiar faces to voters, will vie for two open seats on the Board of Selectmen.
Former Selectman Michael Ouellette will challenge incumbents Joseph Nowak and Richard Blanchard in Monday's town elections, which also include races for the Planning Board and School Committee.
The election will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the town's Department of Public Works garage, 92 North Summer St.
Blanchard and Nowak were elected for the first time in 2013. Selectmen in Adams serve three-year terms.
Ouellette served as a selectman from 2008 until 2014, when he was defeated by newcomer Jeffrey Snoonian by a tally of 711 to 451 votes. Snoonian remains on the board.
Blanchard, who serves as the board's chairman, has been on the board for some of its toughest financial decisions as town budgets continue to be tight.
"I'm basically running again to continue the work that we started a couple years ago," Blanchard said. "I see Adams moving in a positive direction."
Blanchard touted a more open and accessible government and said the town's in a better financial position today.
Noting that property taxes are the hot-button issue in town, he said the town has cut several positions, mostly through attrition, in recent years in order to get the budget in order. He said the increase to the tax levy under last year's budget was minimal and expects fiscal 2017 to be similar.
"The last three years, every vote I've taken I've done what I thought is in the best interest of Adams," Blanchard said.
Selectman Joseph Nowak is running for another term to continue his efforts to revitalize the Greylock Glen, the downtown area and the town's economy.
"There's some projects that I feel are in their infancy and I think they have some potential to help our community economically," Nowak said.
Nowak, a lifelong Adams resident, expects that issues important to voters will include property taxes and the sustainability of the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District, which has begun to assess the possibility of consolidating its two elementary schools.
"The dwindling population and the need to regionalize is going to be something that's going to be challenging because we're so parochial," Nowak said, adding that decisions can't be based solely on emotion.
Though he doesn't want to change the "community atmosphere," Nowak said the town needs to change its approaches to finances and noted the several town positions cut in recent budgets.
"All in all it's challenging everywhere," he said. "I don't like the demeanor that people have that this is only typical of Adams Massachusetts."
After taking two years off, Ouellette, a retired engineer at General Electric and Adams resident, is ready to get back into the thick of things.
"I think the Selectmen have to be more involved," Ouellette said. "They can't just go to the meetings on a Wednesday and take a vote. ... They need to get out on the street, they need to make phone calls."
Ouellette stressed the importance of improving the academic quality of the town's schools, monitoring the town's spending of its own money and grant funding, and improving property values. According to the state Department of Revenue, Adams had the sixth-highest residential tax rate of any city or town in the commonwealth in 2016.
"Our taxes are just too high. We're one of the highest tax rates in the state. There's several reasons for that, and one of them is we've got a lot of low-value properties."
Ouellette, who also served as a Town Meeting member for 18 years, also advocated for increased regionalization and sharing of services between North Adams and Adams.
"We can't continue to work alone as a town doing this and a city doing this," Ouellette said.
Uncontested races include Edward Driscoll for town moderator, Anita Jamross and Karen Kettles for library trustee, Kelly Rice for treasurer, Lorraine Kalisz for assessor, Peter Hoyt for the Board of Health, David Rhinemiller for Planning Board, Carol Roberts and James Dicicco for Housing Authority.
School Committee Chairman Paul Butler is running uncontested to win another term, and other residents, including Jennifer Andrews, have expressed interest in mounting a write-in campaign for the second open seat.
There also are no candidates for seats on the Library's board of trustees, Planning Board, cemetery commissioner and redevelopment authority. Town Meeting member positions are also open.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376
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