Two vie for Stockbridge Select Board

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STOCKBRIDGE — The two-way race for a three-year Select Board term comes down to a choice between the current chairman, Don Chabon, and political newcomer Roxanne McCaffrey.

Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Senior Center in the Town Offices, 50 Main Street. There are 1,661 registered voters.

In a mailing to town residents, McCaffrey noted that as a 50-year full-time resident, she has seen the "eroding" of the traditional "egalitarian community" ethic of respect -- even when passionately debating an issue.

Driving her candidacy, she said, is "my growing concern and feeling that a number of issues could have been handled in a more prudent manner over the past few years. Given a healthier dynamic, our town might have avoided several recent missteps."

McCaffrey, who is not affiliated with a political party, described her "wish for Stockbridge to continue being a wonderful place to live; a courteous community where we show care and respect for each other."

At a recent informational forum organized by the Democratic Committee but billed as non-partisan, Chabon defended his record in office, while his challenger detailed her concerns before a crowd of 75-plus citizens. Chabon is running as a Democrat.

A third candidate, Matthew Szwyd, withdrew from the race a few hours later, citing conflict of interest concerns raised since he's the son-in-law of ousted Fire Chief Ernest "Chuckie" Cardillo, who remains a selectman. Cardillo, who was terminated over the purchase of excess department supplies, is suing the town to get his job restored, along with back pay and legal costs.

In response to resident Nina Ryan's question about "developer pressure" such as last year's major resort project proposal at the former DeSisto Estate, now in limbo, McCaffrey described "the whole situation" as "unfortunate." She suggested opportunities were missed, and proposals should be open to careful negotiation toward "a configuration that we're all willing to live with."

"It has to be something that benefits the town, to fit in with how we define ourselves and who we think we are," McCaffrey declared. "I would never want to discourage people engaging in open conversation and have good dialogue with whomever is making the proposal. It doesn't mean we automatically accept it."

Chabon described extensive discussions with developer Patrick Sheehan over the 37 Interlaken resort proposal at the former DeSisto property. "I, of all the selectmen, met with him personally, to try to understand what he was willing and able to do, a precursor to negotiation, by the way," he said. "My impression was that this was his proposal and he was not particularly interested in modifying it to any substantial degree."

"We gave him many opportunities to speak, and he did,," Chabon said. "Although it never actually came to a vote, the question in the community was whether this was a substantial detriment to the neighborhood. That's the criteria for special permits."

Chabon stated that Sheehan "is certainly coming back, he will be returning with other proposals, and I anticipate that in the not-too-distant future." But, responding to The Eagle's followup question, Chabon said he had no specific details, information or knowledge about the developer's next move.

On other subjects, Chabon stated that he helped form an economic development task force in response to bond rating agency Standard & Poor's recommendations to diversify the town's economy beyond its tourism base.

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Other priorities he listed included the study of downtown traffic safety and the rebuilding of the town's Highway Department garage, a $2.3 million project getting underway.

"We've taken initiatives, made inroads, and with your help, I look forward to shepherding these along," he told voters, noting his two-page list of the Select Board's accomplishments that would be available after the meeting.

McCaffrey, who served as an advanced EMT for 11 years on the Lee Ambulance Squad which covers parts of Stockbridge, is a former informational technology manager.

On her view that town culture has "eroded," she cited "growing conflict that's causing me more and more concern and worry." Citing complex issues and challenges facing the town, "they're going to incur significant expense. We need to take a cost-effective approach as we start to tackle these issues, and we will, to keep the tax burden down."

McCaffrey posed the question: "Do we want to be a retirement community or do we want to be a vibrant community with younger generations to carry on into the future? We will not agree on everything all the time, but we do need to find common ground and any decisions we make have to be working for the common good."

On transparency and communication, Chabon emphasized that "it's important for us to be open and to accept comment, and we have been trying to do it as best we can."

"We have plenty of people who are vocal," McCaffrey said, but suggested that town government should be more responsive to citizens' concerns, specifically follow-up action responding to simple complaints.

Finance Committee member Jim Balfanz asked Chabon why "so many citizens' concerns are seemingly ignored" and why "there's no old business on the agenda" for the Select Board.

"We have a much more fluid, participatory system than many other communities," Chabon responded. "I try to run the Select Board informally, which encourages participation. We've dealt with a great deal in the past few years."

Also up for grabs in Tuesday's election are three contested Planning Board seats and one uncontested position.

Two current board members, Christine Rasmussen and Stuart Hirshfield, are vying for a two-year seat. Newcomer William Vogt is challenging incumbent Barney Edmonds for a three-year seat. And Nancy Socha is facing off against Dr. Charles Kenny for a one-year seat.

Incumbent Marie Raftery is unopposed for a five-year term.

In addition, the following candidates are running unopposed: Incumbent Terri Iemolini for town clerk; incumbent Douglas Goudey for Board of Assessors; incumbent Catherine Plakun for Board of Health; Dawn Rabinowitz for Housing Authority; Nicolaos Fredsall for parks and recreation commissioner; and incumbent Peter Socha for sewer and water commissioner. All positions are for three-year seats, except Housing Authority, which is a five-year seat.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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