Bath City Council: Candidates compete in 2 races

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BATH — This year’s City Council election includes two contests for three seats.

Incumbent at-large Councilor Andrew Winglass of Judkins Avenue is being challenged by Charles Turcotte of Middle Street and Peter Heinz of High Street, and incumbent Councilor James Omo of Middle Street will have to defeat Meadow Rue Merrill to keep his Ward 1 seat.

Incumbent Councilor David Sinclair of Meadow Way is unopposed in Ward 6.

Meanwhile, only incumbent Tim Harkins returned nomination papers for the District 3 seat on the Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors. No one submitted papers in Districts 2 and 7, including current office-holders David Barber and Betsy Varian.

A major issue for council candidates is the proposed move of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark from the soon-to-be-demolished former YMCA on Summer Street to the former National Guard Armory on Old Brunswick Road.

At-Large

Heinz, 72, is married and has one daughter. He has lived in Bath nine years. He has spent most of his life in the marketing and advertising fields, and was most recently an advertising manager for both Maine Magazine and Maine Home & Design. Prior to that he was involved in membership and advertising sales for the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

In deciding to run for the City Council, Heinz said, “I think it’s time for a change,” noting that the candidates against whom he is running have both served on the council.

“I think I can provide a fresh, enthusiastic perspective and an intelligent approach to problem solving,” he said.

Heinz said he is “totally dedicated to preserving Bath as a thriving and productive city that governs with fiscal responsibility.”

Waterfront development and superior education are local issues that concern him, he said, as is keeping teenagers active and productive.

But he has not taken a position on whether the Skatepark should be moved to the Armory, noting that “whether (the Armory) is suitable for a skate park or not, I don’t know, but I think one of the biggest challenges the city has is to find an alternative” to what has been the Skatepark.

Heinz, who is chairman of Bath’s tourism committee, and a member of Main Street Bath’s economic restructuring and promotions committees, said he would like to make Bath more of an all-year visitor destination.

Turcotte, 77, has two daughters and three granddaughters, and he has spent most of his life in Bath. Now retired, his work experience included time at Bath Iron Works and the Bath Fire Department, as well as in the carpentry field.

One reason he is running, Turcotte said, is because he does not want to see anyone run unopposed. He previously served as Ward 1 councilor from 1987-1993.

He said taxes are a big concern because the council “can’t seem to control themselves about the spending. Everything the city manager comes up with, they all seem to be ‘yes’ people, and are willing to go along with whatever he says.”

On the subject of the Skatepark, Turcotte said, “when this started out … it wasn’t going to cost the people of the city anything. It was going to be all taken care of by those who were involved, and that didn’t work out.”

He said he might be able to support the Skatepark’s move into the Armory if the entity is able to fund the necessary renovations to the facility on its own, without help from the city.

“But I don’t think that’s going to happen …,” he said. “They want to spend too much money.

“You want to give the kids a place to go, but how many of them go there, and how big a problem is it going to be, and how much more is it going to cost us as far as maintenance goes after the thing is all remodeled for that purpose, and how many more people are we going to have to hire to take care of it?,” Turcotte asked. “That’s a pretty good-sized building.”

He said it is important for the city to put its priorities in order, and address issues like street improvements and the sewer overflow problems that have plagued parts of Bath.

Winglass, 51, is married and has three children. He has lived in Bath about 20 years, co-owns Mae’s Cafe on Centre Street, and is completing his third term on the council.

“There are some things that I’m still working on … and I enjoy being on the council,” he said. “And I like representing Bath from my seat.”

His service to Bath includes time on the boards of the Patten Free Library, the Main Street Bath and Bath Area Family YMCA boards, the Bath Development Corp., as well as on the Bath Zoning Board of Appeals and Bath Economic Development, Waterfront and South End Park committees. He served two years as council chairman, and several years as vice chairman.

Winglass said he supports the council’s recent appropriation of $5,000 from its contingency account to fund preliminary studies of improvements, renovations and repairs at the Armory. The council approved borrowing up to $175,000 last year to purchase the building.

But when asked whether he supports the Skatepark move to the Armory, and who should fund the renovations, Winglass said that until the council knows the cost, he is “at a loss of information to even make a decision one way or another.”

He said the city’s economic development and infrastructure are important, and he supports objectives such as getting tenants for the second phase of Wing Farm Business Park, and completing the Waterfront Park.

“I think the city’s come a long way in the nine years that I’ve been on the council,” he said. “So I want to keep the city moving in those kinds of directions, as opposed to moving backwards or stalling.”

Ward 1

Merrill, 39, is married and has four children. She has lived in Bath almost 15 years, and as a freelance writer she has worked for publications such as Downeast magazine and The Boston Globe. She has volunteered at the Dike-Newell Elementary School, and said her manuscript for a children’s book is in the hands of an agent.

She said she was asked to run by fellow residents concerned by the City Council’s direction.

“There are some big-spending items that have come up,” she said, “and I think particularly people are concerned that we not be spending money on luxuries right now, and that we find creative solutions to meet the needs of the people in the community.”

Merrill’s oldest son is at the Skatepark about once a week, she said.

“I would love to see a center that meets the needs not only of the skateboarders, but also a wider base of kids in the community,” she said. “And I’m 100 percent in favor of helping the Skatepark access the funds and the support they need, but I don’t think the city can take on the financial burden of renovating the Armory, or paying for that with taxpayers’ money, because people are stretched so thin right now.”

She said that if the Skatepark moves to the Armory, she would support the city contributing some funds to the renovation, but that she would prefer the Skatepark raise most of the funds. She said she favors the Armory being the Skatepark’s new home.

Merrill also said she wants to bring a higher level of respect back to the City Council, and that she wants to see a “good dialog” between councilors and constituents.

“I hope to make sure (Bath) is still a safe, affordable and enjoyable place for people to live,” she said.

Omo, 41, moved to Bath with his parents in 1980, moved away in 1989 and returned in 2001. Omo has served two terms on the council, and he runs Omo Construction.

He said that as a councilor there are many projects he has started, and committees he has served on, “and I just would really like to see things through. I think that the council and the city of Bath are heading in a great direction, we’ve obviously got our finances under control and lots of big things on the horizon. And mostly, I have a hard time sitting back, paying my taxes and having somebody else spend it.”

Omo, who served on the South End Park Committee and is on the Waterfront Park Committee, would like to see the latter project finished. His service has also included the Sagadahoc County Budget Committee, Bath’s Solid Waste and Recycling Committee, as well as its Facilities, Lighting and Parking committees.

He also serves on the Skatepark board, and said that should the operation move to the Armory, “it’s definitely going to be more of a youth meetinghouse. … Even now, there’s way more going on than just skateboarding,” he said, such as computers, games and socializing.

“There’s no way that (the Armory) will be renovated and paid for yearly by being a community center,” he said. “If you make it a youth meetinghouse, at least half of the operating costs of that building will be covered … just by revenue.”

He noted that when the Bath Parks and Recreation Department took over the Skatepark, the facility was operating in the red, but that it is now is nearly in the black.

“The Skatepark board is more than ready to go out and raise money,” Omo said.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Sidebar Elements


Peter Heinz

Charles Turcotte

Andrew Winglass

Meadow Merrill

James Omo

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.