BATH — Four City Council seats are up for grabs on Nov. 4, although only two of the elections are contested.
Councilor Sean Paulhus of Middle Street and former Councilor James Omo of North Street are running for the at-large seat being vacated by Councilor Andrew Winglass.
Former Councilor Kyle Rogers of Court Street and Peter Blachly of Centre Street are running for the Ward 3 seat vacated in August by Carolyn Lockwood, who wanted to avoid a potential conflict of interest with her new job as director of Main Street Bath.
Susan Bauer of Dummer Street is the only candidate in Ward 6, which Councilor David Sinclair is leaving to run for district attorney, while Gregory Page of Washington Street is running uncontested in Ward 1 to replace Councilor Meadow Merrill. Page has served on the Parks and Recreation Commission since 2002 and has been its chairman since 2003.
Six charter amendments are also on the city ballot.
They would change the time of the council’s annual organizational meeting, held in December, from 7:30 p.m. to the usual 6 p.m. start time of other meetings; allow notification of special meetings to be sent to councilors via email, with verification of receipt; allow the city manager to live outside of Bath; exempt revenues from the municipal expenditure cap that have been obtained and used for project expenses connected to a tax increment financing district; permit alternate ward clerks and wardens to serve at elections when the usual appointees are unavailable; and bring city elections with write-in candidates in line with Maine law by eliminating a requirement for tallying votes for such candidates in most situations.
Omo, 44, moved to Bath with his parents in 1980, left in 1989, and returned in 2001. He runs Omo Construction, and served two terms on the council, from 2005-2011, before being unseated by Merrill in Ward 1.
He serves on the board of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark, and has also been on the South End Park and Waterfront Park committees, the Sagadahoc County Budget Committee and Bath’s Solid Waste and Recycling Committee and the Facilities, Lighting and Parking committees.
He was also City Council representative to Bath’s School Board, prior to the city joining Regional School Unit 1.
Omo said he is once more in a place where he is able to “represent and serve” Bath. “I enjoy Bath; that’s why I came back to Bath,” he said. “If I’m going to be here, I’ve got to be a part of it.”
He said residents are concerned about the city’s infrastructure – its utilities and buildings – and that money should be spent “in a greener, more sustainable way as far as heating our buildings goes. … I think that we’ve either been hiring the wrong contractors, or we haven’t been having good oversight of where our money’s been spent – at the Customs House … in our sewer line work.”
Omo said he favors all the charter amendments except the one permitting the manager to live outside the city.
He said his love of Bath, and prior City Council experience, make him a strong candidate.
Paulhus, 28, has been aide to the secretary of the state Senate since 2012, and has worked for the Senate since 2008. It was also in 2008 that he was elected to fill the final year of an unexpired City Council term. He has re-elected twice, without opposition.
He still has another year left in his Ward 2 term, but said last month that he “would like the opportunity to represent all the people of Bath on the City Council, and continue to serve the people in my ward.”
Paulhus, who has served as its the council’s vice chairman, has also been on the Capital Improvement, Charter, Parking and Transportation, Bath Recognition and Sagadahoc County Budget Advisory committees. He has also served as vice chairman of the Bath Development Corp., and chaired the committee that designed Bath’s new flag.
“I enjoy being on the council; I enjoy working with my fellow councilors on different issues,” Paulhus said. “I enjoy helping my neighbors when they call. … It’s a learning experience all the time.”
Paulhus noted the importance of the council being communicative, through means such as Bath’s website, about matters going on in the city. He praised the city’s ongoing projects, such as the High Street rehabilitation, and the hotel to be built on Leeman Highway (U.S. Route 1) in place of the demolished Holiday Inn.
Paulhus declined to say whether he supports the proposed charter amendments, explaining that he did not want to influence the votes of other residents. “But I think we’ve come up with some good suggestions, improving without changing major aspects of the charter,” he said.
Like Omo, he expressed his love for Bath, and said his two council terms are good preparation for further service.
“I think I’ve got the tools and skills to continue the work,” Paulhus said. “I’ve learned that as a ward councilor, and I think I can bring that experience to the at-large seat.”
Blachly, 64, is married and has two children and two grandchildren. He recently retired as director of the Maine Alliance for Arts Education, and may be better known by his professional name of Peter Alexander.
He has chaired Bath’s Creative Community initiative and co-chaired a City Council committee focused on exploring universal Internet access for the city. A musician, Blachly has organized and booked the Chocolate Church’s Third Friday Concert Series for the past two years, recruited Bath Art Walk musicians, and booked the Summer Saturday Concerts this year at Waterfront Park.
Blachly served as president of the Maine Songwriters Association from 2009-2013, when he implemented a Songwriting in the Public Schools program.
The health of the city’s downtown business district, including the farmers’ market, is of great importance to Bath, he said, as well as “a thriving and vibrant arts and cultural sector, and – most especially – the opportunities that we provide our young people for recreation, education, and the visual and performing arts.
“These are aspects of our community that I hope to use my role as a City Councilor to promote and enhance,” Blachly said.
As a councilor, he said he plans to ensure Bath makes best use of city-owned properties, “and that our city services are adequately serving the needs of the community while being delivered in the most cost-effective manner.”
Blachly said he would also like to bring more arts and educational institutions to Bath.
Regarding the charter amendments, he said he mainly agreed with Sinclair’s desire for the city manager to be required to live in Bath, although he prefers it be a recommendation, or option with an incentive, as opposed to an inflexible rule.
“If we had a really talented manager living across the river, I wouldn’t want to disqualify him or her on that basis alone,” Blachly said.
Rogers, 52, is married and works for the U.S. Navy Supervisor of Shipbuilding as a resource management assistant. He is also a former real estate agent.
He retired in 2002 after two decades in the U.S. Navy, and served two terms on the City Council, from 2006-2012, before being unseated by Lockwood. He moved to Bath in 1996.
Rogers has been president of the Merrymeeting Board of Realtors, and his other involvements include the Bath Economic Development and Community Development Block Grant committees, as well as the Midcoast Council of Governments, Sagadahoc County Communications Center board of directors, and the Mid Coast Business Development and Planning groups.
“I enjoy working for the people of the city of Bath,” he said, adding that he also enjoyed his work on the council and wants to continue it.
He noted the importance of the city spending taxpayers’ money wisely, and praised the growth occurring downtown. He would like to see more marketing of the Wing Farm business park to bring in more business.
Rogers took issue with the city manager residence and TIF-related charter amendments.
“The city manager is the person responsible for developing the city budget, making proposals to the City Council about how property tax revenue should be spent, and many more responsibilities which obligate the citizens of Bath,” Rogers said. “I don’t think it is prudent to allow said person to reside outside the city.”
Concerning the TIF amendment, he noted that the spending limit went into effect due to excessive spending in the 1980s by the city manager and council.
“Revenue is revenue; it doesn’t matter where it comes from,” Rogers said. “The fact that the Legislature had to create a law to exempt TIF revenues from the original (Bath Iron Works) TIF should be a telltale sign that this is wrong. This is the same as going on a diet and saying that anything I eat from my neighbor’s refrigerator doesn’t affect my weight.”
Rogers noted that he recommended, in 2011, that city TIF accounts have the same scrutiny as the budget, a practice the City Council adopted.
No contests for RSU 1, SAD 75 boards
Candidates for the Regional School Unit 1 and School Administrative District 75 boards of directors are all uncontested on Nov. 4.
No one submitted nomination papers for one open seat in RSU 1.
Jennifer Ritch-Smith of Woolwich is running again for the District 1 post (Bath and Woolwich) in RSU 1, as are Chairman Tim Harkins of Arrowsic in District 3 (Arrowsic, Bath and Woolwich), and Bill Perkins of Phippsburg in District 7 (Bath and Phippsburg).
No one submitted papers for the District 2 seat (Bath and West Bath) held by David Barber of Bath, who is not seeking re-election, so the representative for that district may be elected by write-in votes.
The SAD 75 Board of Directors has three open seats. Incumbents Jane Scease and Jeffrey Wolkens are uncontested for re-election, and Matthew Drewette-Card is unopposed in a bid to replace James Conners, who is not seeking re-election.
— Alex Lear