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Falmouth Town Council, School Board candidates discuss the issues

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Falmouth Town Council, School Board candidates discuss the issues

FALMOUTH — Voters will elect three town councilors and two School Board members on June 8.

There are five candidates for the council and four for School Board. Here's where they stand on some of Falmouth's most significant issues.

Town Council
Barbara DiBiase

Barbara DiBiase moved to Falmouth from Portland in 2002 and is originally from Vermont. She lives on Middle Road with her husband and has two step-sons and three grandchildren.

DiBiase, 49, runs a real estate appraisal and property management company with her husband. She recently earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Southern Maine in political science and environmental sustainability. She has been Falmouth's energy and sustainability coordinator for several years.

DiBiase said she is running for council because she believes in the concept of protecting, preserving and prospering. She said she wants to protect the small-town feel, preserve the quality of life in Falmouth, and put in place efficiencies that will help the town prosper.

She supports stronger vernal pool protections than the state requires as a precautionary principal. She said more studies must be done to determine the impact of development on vernal pools, and that the town should proceed cautiously when putting in place mandates and policies.

DiBiase said she believes the Falmouth Flyer bus has been a success and it would be a mistake to downgrade or do away with it so soon. She said she anticipates a growing ridership as fuel prices begin to rise and hopes local businesses offer incentives for employees to ride the bus.

She is a fan of regionalization and said she recognizes the benefits of interdependence. She said she brought in $130,000 in grant money for the school and town as energy and sustainability coordinator, and would like to see the town consolidate energy purchases and make decisions about Route 1 with other towns.

Her guilty, little pleasure, she said, is Diet Pepsi.

David Murray

David Murray came to Falmouth in 1979, and has raised three children in town. He was a volunteer fireman for 10 years, and also was the chairman of the Planning Board when The Woodlands and Falmouth Country Club were being developed. Murry also served two terms on the Town Council in the 1990s.

He said he is running again because he has noticed an expansion of town government in the past decade, which he does not support.

Murray, 60, said he does not support plans to establish stronger vernal pool protections than the state because the town already has restrictive ordinances and provisions in place to protect open space. He said the natural resources in town belong to the citizens, not the town, and that if the town wants to protect land, it should contribute financially to do so.

Murray also said he does not support continuing the Falmouth Flyer bus service because it was an experiment that did not work. He said the sooner Falmouth extracts itself from its contract with METRO, the better.

Murray said he appreciates the value of consolidation efforts, but said that Falmouth needs to do what is best for the town. He said he understood the need for efficiency, but that sometimes, upon closer investigation, important aspects of a program or service can be lost when it is consolidated with other similar programs.

Murray said his favorite guilty, little pleasure is scrapple, which is made from the leftover bits of pork that are coated in cornmeal and deep fried.

Tony Payne

Tony Payne grew up in Portland, but has lived in Falmouth for 20 years and has raised three sons in town. He is employed by the Alliance for Maine's Future, an organization that advocates for Maine's economy.

Payne, 56, has served one term on the council and is the vice chairman. He also serves on the Finance Committee, is chairman of the Ordinance Committee, and is the council's representative to the Maine Municipal Association's Legislative Policy Council.

He said he is running for re-election because he wants the town to be cautious with taxpayer money.

He said he believes in a high degree of transparency and has been sending regular letters to approximately 1,000 Falmouth residents about issues as they arise, advising them to contact the council to express their feelings about the subjects.

Payne does not support plans to establish stronger vernal pool protections than the state because of the impact on private property values.

He said he also does not support continuing the Falmouth Flyer bus service because he believes it has not worked. Payne said he followed the bus recently during the morning commute and from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and counted nine riders from Falmouth. He said Falmouth does not have the right demographics to support a bus service.

Payne said the town should be exploring every consolidation option possible. He said the town could explore information technology, human resources, accounting, public works, police and many other options for consolidation.

He said his guilty, little pleasure is chocolate chip cookies, and that Waldo's are some of the best he's ever had.

Bonny Rodden

Bonny Rodden has lived in Falmouth for 16 years and is completing her first term as a councilor.

She is a member and former trustee of the Falmouth Land Trust and is the coordinator for the annual Mackworth Island clean-up effort. Rodden is the former chairwoman of the Recycling Committee and is currently the chairwoman of the Community Development Committee and the Mass Transit Committee. She is also the council liaison to ecomaine and the METRO board.

Rodden, 55, said she is seeking re-election because she believes Falmouth is a leader at the state and regional level and she wants to keep it that way. She said she wants the town to continue its leadership role by making decisions based on its long-term future, not irresponsible, short-term decisions the community will regret when the economy turns around.

She said she supports mandating greater vernal pool protections than the state because the recommendation from the committee that reviewed the town's current protections found they were inadequate. She said she recognizes the concern of land owners, however, and said that both the U.S. Supreme Court and the state Legislature have stated that public interest supersedes private rights when it comes to this kind of protection.

Rodden said she strongly believes the Falmouth Flyer bus service has been a success and said she believes it could become even better over time. She questioned claims of ridership numbers based on following the bus once or twice, and said the bigger picture is the service the bus provides to seniors, students, shoppers and the businesses that rely on the bus for their employees and patrons. She said ridership has increased every year and that drawing an arbitrary line in the sand to determine the its success is an example of being shortsighted.

Rodden said she believes that consolidation efforts are exactly the direction the town should be going and pointed to her leadership as liaison to ecomaine. She suggested the town bid with other towns for trash and recycling collection. While the effort did not work out, she said she would like to see more of this work in the future.

Her guilty, little pleasure lately, she said, is stealing almonds from her husband's stash. However, she also said that when council meetings go past 10 p.m., she'll take any junk food that people have.

Faith Varney

Faith Varney has been a full-time resident of Falmouth since 1976, and has owned property in town since 1967. She taught music in the Falmouth school system from 1968 until her retirement. Since then she has taken on a role as the president of the Friends of the Falmouth Library and received the Russell Award from the library in 2006.

Varney, 75, was also Falmouth's Citizen of the Year in 2007 and currently sits on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

She said she is running for council because it is too easy to sit back and let other people do the job. She wants to bring moderation to the council and said she does not think the town should pay for everything.

Varney said she opposes more extensive protections for vernal pools out of a concern for property owners. She said she knows many people who purchased land in town as an investment and does not want people who don't own the land to control it.

She said she is also opposed to continuing to fund the Falmouth Flyer bus service, but is unsure what, exactly, she would like to do about public transportation. She said it is important to provide transportation for residents of OceanView and workers at Wal-Mart and TD Bank in West Falmouth. However, she would like to see the companies contribute to the costs.

Varney said she wants to see more consolidation efforts between the town and School Department, particularly when it comes to purchasing. She also said she was happy to see the consolidation of the dispatch services between Falmouth and Yarmouth, and that she would like to see more of those kinds of efforts.

She said her favorite junk food is pecan pie served at public suppers. She also loves chocolate ice cream.

School Board
Audrey Grassman

Audrey Grassman moved to Falmouth in 2006 from Virginia. She said her family chose Falmouth because of the school system. Her two sons both attend Falmouth High School.

In Virginia, she said, she served for several years on the PTA and was active on her church governing board and with its youth ministry.

She said she is running for School Board because she wants to be a part of the process and wants to be an active part of the community. She said she regularly attends the meetings and follows the issues closely.

Grassman, 46, said she wishes the schools didn't have to charge fees for athletic programs, but that she understands why they must. She said she anticipates there will be adjustments to the process next year. She said she was at the workshop when a large number of parents said they would prefer to pay fees over eliminating programs or increasing taxes to pay for them. She said she did not want to see academics cut to support athletics.

She said when reviewing next year's budget she would return to the good work the board did when preparing the three-tiered budget this year and use that as a starting point. With the opening of the new building next year, Grassman said it is important to consider the potential impact of both the savings and new expenses.

When considering all-day kindergarten, Grassman said she approves of the day-care program as long as it is funded by those who use the service, and not by the school budget. However, if the state mandates all-day kindergarten in the future, she said the schools will have deal with that. She said she wants to have a community conversation about the process and would prefer to see all-day kindergarten discussed before pre-kindergarten.

Her guilty, little pleasure, she said, is really good, dark chocolate.

Marna Miller

Marna Miller moved to Falmouth nine years ago and has two children in the school system. She is a developmental editor for a college psychology magazine, a position she can do from home.

Miller, 41, said she volunteers one morning a week in each of her children's classrooms. She also founded the Falmouth Family Network, an organization that brings together pre-school children for play time and inter-family networking before they begin school.

She said she is running because she believes Falmouth is at a crossroads with the impending shortfall in state subsidies. She said the school system is a tremendous resource and that the town has a really proud history of supporting the schools. She emphasized the importance of the budget validation referendum to maintain moderation.

She said she supports the play-to-play fee structure, which she has seen work in other towns, such as Cape Elizabeth and Cumberland. However, she said she is waiting to make a final determination about it until she hears from the community.

Miller said she would look for balance when working on next year's budget. She wants to get as much community input as possible and if cuts are required, said she would then determine what level of reductions residents are comfortable with.

Miller said she is also waiting for more information about the expansion of pre-K and kindergarten programs before making judgments.

Her guilty, little pleasure, she said, is anything with caffeine, particularly coffee and Diet Coke.

Christopher Murry Jr.

Chris Murry Jr. has lived in Falmouth since he was in third grade; he graduated from Falmouth High School in 2006. During his junior and senior years, he served as a student representative on the School Board.

Murry, 22, recently graduated from George Washington University with a degree in history and a minor in speech and hearing sciences. He works at the Aerodigestive Clinic in Portland.

Murry said he is running because he believes the schools have fallen into a rut and need a fresh perspective. As a product of the system, Murry said he has a unique understanding of the district's strengths and weaknesses, as well as strong relationships with teachers and administrators.

He is a proponent of the idea that participants in sports and extracurricular activities should be charged fees to support the programs. He said he does not want to see retired people being forced to pay for expensive athletic programs through their taxes. However, he would also like to see the system reviewed regularly.

Murry said he would like to better utilize technology to reduce waste throughout the schools. He said he would also like to see a better relationship between the schools and the town to encourage consolidation of services.

He said all-day kindergarten is something interesting to look into, but he does not want to see additional costs for the district. He said preschool programs should be paid for by participants.

His guilty, little pleasure, he said, is frozen whoopie pies.

David Snow

David Snow is a long-time resident of Falmouth. He graduated from Falmouth High School in 1952 and Williams College in 1956, and has served on community and civic boards. He has five grown children, including two sons who have served in the military, a daughter who is a teacher, a son in banking and a daughter who is a stay-at-home mom.

Snow, 76, said he is running because he is concerned that the middle-tier students in Falmouth are not getting the attention they need. He said the top graduates get into good schools and the special education programs are excellent, but that he is concerned that students in the middle of the pack are not receiving what they need.

He said he has recently spoken to coaches in the district and that they support the pay-to-play fees. He said he supports the program because those students who cannot afford the fees will still be able to play. He said people in Falmouth have money and can afford to support the programs.

Snow said he would like to see the district save money at budget time by reviewing administrative overhead, such as transportation and bus expenses, as well as by consolidating purchases with other schools.

He also said he would like to look into the potential expansion of the kindergarten program further before making a judgment.

His guilty, little pleasure, he said, is an Egg McMuffin from McDonald's.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net