FREEPORT — Voters will choose representatives for District 2, District 3 and an at-large seat in the Nov. 8 Town Council elections.
The District 2 seat is held by incumbent Councilor Eric Pandora of Birch Point Road. He is challenged by newcomer Katherine Arno of Pleasant Hill Road. The district includes the northeast section of town.
Incumbent Councilor Joe Migliaccio of Vin Mar Lane represents District 3, the South Freeport area to the Yarmouth border. He is challenged by Kristina Egan of Weston Point.
And incumbent at-large Councilor Rich DeGrandpre of Timber Ridge Road faces newcomer Marie Gunning of Telos Road.
Arno, 58, is married and has a daughter who recently graduated from North Yarmouth Academy.
She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maine and a master’s degree in public policy and management from the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine.
Arno is a senior manager and senior policy associate at the Muskie School. For the past two years she has served as president of the Freeport Economic Development Corp., and is a member of the Freeport Historical Society.
Arno said she is running because she wants to “secure Freeport’s future” by helping to create jobs and by giving people an opportunity to start small businesses. She said she can help make smart decisions regarding economic development by choosing the right projects and placing them in the right spots.
Arno said she is in favor of reviewing the town’s financial policies and said if elected would continue to be “a good watchdog to how our business is conducted.”
Although she said the current council and town staff have followed good financial practices, she said she would strive to continue to improve and manage the town’s finances as transparently and with as much fiscal responsibility as possible.
Arno said she would work to hold the line on taxes by using innovative budgeting to maintain services and by reviewing actual numbers and trends in spending from year to year. She said she supports reviewing each department to find efficiencies.
She said she will find ways to support, preserve and protect the businesses, sources of livelihood, independent workers in the district and natural resources for the enjoyment of those who live in District 2 and those who visit.
“I grew up in a rural community and understand how important a person’s sense of place is to them,” Arno said. “I will do the hard work, will listen to residents and study the issues. I have an educational background in public policy and management and have studied best practices for engaging communities in making decisions, which gives me a skill set that is different from other candidates.”
Arno said the fields project on Hunter Road is an exciting project for FEDC and good for the community, but in hindsight, she said it may have been better to get more public input on the project.
Incumbent Pandora said he supports the fields and trails project and voted in favor of allocating $2.3 million to the project, but wanted to sent it out to a bond vote. He said residents should have had an opportunity to decide how their money is spent.
Pandora, 44, is married, and has two children in the school system. He is a plan manager at ING Retirement Services.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and is the president of the Wolfe’s Neck Club. He is completing his first term on the council.
He said he is running for another term to continue to pursue positive change and fight for more a open and accessible town government. If re-elected, he said he will work to create a code of ethics and conflict of interest policy.
He said he supports a stable tax rate, a balance of business and residential interests and a budget that represents actual expenditures instead of estimated appropriations.
“People need to see their budget, understand how their money is being spent and where it is going,” he said.
Pandora said he did not support the municipal budget last year because it wasn’t in the correct format and did not include a half-time firefighter position that would have decreased the emergency response call time by five minutes.
“I believe we can do more and still lower taxes,” he said. “This is not about cutting services or employees, it is about efficiently running a town. With a top-down review of the budget, I believe we could cut out some waste.”
He said he also wants to focus on protecting the town’s rural residential neighborhoods.
“Downtown is where business belongs, I don’t want it to spill out into the neighborhoods,” he said. “I will remain committed to the integrity of our zoning ordinances that protect residents investment in their property and quality of life.”
He said he has been consistent in his service to the town and has made incremental changes such as reviewing the town financial policies, having the budget process approved in accordance with the Town Charter, working on having the town audit services go to bid, and reviewing and ultimately changing the Tax Increment Financing policy.
“Change is slow,” Pandora said, “but I need to continue pushing for that positive change.”
Egan, 39, is married and has a 6-year-old son. She received a bachelor’s degree in history from Wesleyan University and a master’s degree in international relations and international economics at Johns Hopkins University.
Most recently Egan worked as the director of the South Coast Rail Project, a passenger rail extension program for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. She now runs Harraseeket Strategies Group, a consulting practice for nonprofit organizations and government agencies. She has experience with multi-million dollar budgets and consensus building, she said.
“The greatest thing that I can bring to the council is the skill-set of building majorities around ideas,” Egan said.
In order to make sure those living on fixed incomes can afford to stay in their home, Egan said she would propose a cap-and-defer tax strategy for senior citizens and long-term residents who are struggling with their property taxes.
She said if elected, she said would find ways to collaborate more with the Regional School Unit 5 board so the town could be an active supporter of the schools.
Egan said she will work to protect the town’s rural and historic character, especially in the South Freeport village area. She said she would like to do a better job connecting preserved open spaces, so that every household within a half mile radius of an open space area can either walk, bike or ski to those natural areas.
She also said she would like to restrict parking in the South Freeport village and cautiously promote the waterfront.
Egan said the conservative budgeting practices of the town have made it possible to build reserve funds, which have helped Freeport gain a good bond rating. She said she is interested in continuing that type of budgeting.
She said that through the use of social media, online video streaming and town meeting-style gatherings in each district, Freeport residents can become more involved in town issues.
“There are a lot of ways to reach out and get people involved, we just have to have the commitment to do that,” she said.
Egan said while the project to build fields and trails on Hunter Road is a good project, the council decision to spend $2.3 million without going to a vote was unfair to the taxpayers.
Incumbent Miglaiccio said he is completely in favor of the fields project and voted in favor of the $2.3 million allocation, but wanted to bond a portion of the funds via a public referendum.
Migliaccio, 46, is married and has two daughters in the RSU 5 school system. He is the manager of business innovation at Maine Technical Institute and has a business interest in the Conundrum property.
He received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Southern Maine and a master’s degree in business administration from Southern New Hampshire University.
Migliaccio has served two terms on the Town Council, and was a member of the Planning Board, South Freeport Parking and Village Planning committees.
Like his opponent, Migliaccio said he would like to see more collaboration between the Town Council and the RSU 5 board, and said he would work to preserve the historical character of the South Freeport village. He said he is also an advocate of the working waterfront in his district.
If re-elected, Migliaccio said he would work to balance local commercial growth with neighborhood quality and safety, continue to create efficient budgets and provide accountability and good value for taxpayer dollars. He said he would advocate to get the Fire Department the resources needed to decrease emergency response time by five minutes.
In his two terms Migliaccio said he has worked to increase town meeting replays on Freeport’s community television, provide more access to public documents through the town’s website and helped implement 24/7 access and archiving of town meetings.
With its recent upgrade to a AA+ credit rating, Migliaccio said Freeport’s finances are in good shape, but he said he is committed to “making sure we are only collecting the money needed to run the town and not over-taxing and under-estimating expenses.”
He said in his professional career and as a councilor he is a steward of public and private funds and understands the importance of maintaining public trust and perception.
“Good town governance is a team sport that involves elected officials, quality administrators and input from the citizens,” he said.
Migliaccio said he brings good negotiation skills to the council, is willing to ask difficult questions, and has the experience needed to continue to serve on the council.
“I take this job seriously,” he said. “I am running because I want to make sure we balance our vibrant community, local services, the commercial core and neighborhoods. Without good leadership you lose that balance.”
DeGrandpre, 59, is married and has two grown daughters. He has owned R&D Automotive for 37 years and graduated from Freeport High School. He has served three terms on the Town Council, including two years as chairman, and is now the vice chairman.
He said he would like to finish the work he has been involved in, such as the current evaluation of needs in each department. That knowledge will provide him with a better perspective going into the budget season, he said.
DeGrandpre said he would like to focus on a plan to work on town roads, culverts and shoulders in the next term. He supports moving funds from the Destination TIF into the budget to assist in town maintenance projects, snow removal and street sweeping.
Unlike his opponent, DeGrandpre said the public process surrounding the $2.3 million allocation for the fields and trails project on Hunter Road was “pretty well advertised.” He said the council had the authority to spend the money without going to a public referendum because it was in a fund balance.
“The funding mechanism we chose – using fund balance money – meant the impact to the mil rate was zero,” he said. “Taxes didn’t go up because we built this project.”
He said he is concerned that the RSU 5 budget, with a significantly larger amount of money, can be passed in a June referendum with only about 200 votes. He said he would continue to encourage residents to attend budget hearings, budget workshops and take part in the budget process.
“For me, I see us moving forward the same way we have been,” DeGrandpre said. “If we could keep the mil rate from moving, and we can provide improved services as we identify them, we’re in this tough economy, but we’re doing OK.”
Concerning the town’s finances, DeGrandpre said the council is taking steps to improve the policies and to mitigate risk, which he said is a relative term.
“I am easy to communicate with, easy to find, and always have time for the residents,” he said. “I have helped to move the community forward in an efficient way and I want to continue to do that.”
Gunning, 50, is married and has two young children. She runs Solana Inc., her own sustainable development consulting business.
She received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the State University of New York at Albany, a master’s in business administration from Fordham University in accounting and finance, and a master’s degree in forestry from Yale University.
She has worked in business and banking for about 30 years, is a volunteer at Morse Street School, a former board member of Habitat for Humanity and volunteer at Preble Street in Portland.
Gunning said she is running for the at-large seat to help build consensus, to listen and talk to members of the community and to act as an advocate of the people. She has challenged the way Freeport manages its finances and said there has been consistent out-of-budget spending.
One of the factors that motivated her to run for a seat on the council, Gunning said, was the $2.3 million allocation to the Hunter Road fields and trails project. While she supports fields, she said the process was completely wrong and the vote should have gone to a public referendum.
If elected, she said she would work to make information as accessible to the public and as easy to understand as possible. She said her priorities are to address roads, additional staffing at the Fire Department and prioritizing essential services.
Gunning said she would like to create a finance committee with community involvement. She is member of the Freeport Residents Committee, a non-partisan group open to every resident of Freeport that works to provide information about town governance and the management of tax dollars.
“To me the council is the mechanism to bring people together and if you are doing things offline and behind closed doors and creating a perception of … trouble and not building up your commnity,” she said.
She said she has raised public awareness by questioning the town’s financial practices and requirements under the Town Charter. If elected, Gunning said she will make sure that whatever the council is working on is clear and in compliance with the charter and town policies.
“I will work hard for (the residents). I am a detailed person who can look at finances in a way that others on the council don’t have the experience to do,” she said. “I am trying to work for positive change … I feel like the work that I’ve done has been successful and has people paying attention to things they haven’t before.”
“I had a very nice job and successful career in banking,” Gunning said, “for me it’s about using my skills to help to do good.”