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Nuances come to light in Falmouth Town Council candidates forum

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Nuances come to light in Falmouth Town Council candidates forum

FALMOUTH — A May 29 forum exposed more similarities than differences between four candidates vying for two seats on the Town Council.

During the one-hour, moderated event at Town Hall, Caleb Hemphill, Erin Mancini, Charlie McBrady and incumbent Councilor Chris Orestis all positioned themselves as business-friendly candidates who will support the schools, continued subsidies for Metro bus service and economic development.

The candidates also said they would follow the path laid out in the 2013 Comprehensive Plan, and work to keep the municipal budget flat.

Small differences emerged, however, on issues of regionalization, acquiring lands for public use, and whether the candidates would consider an ordinance to restrict medical marijuana businesses.

The event was hosted by the Falmouth/Cumberland Community Chamber of Commerce. Moderator Andy Sparks led the candidates through a fast-paced series of question formats, including a pop quiz where candidates were asked to write single-word responses on handheld dry-erase boards, then show their answers simultaneously.

In one example, the candidates were asked to write the approximate population of Falmouth. Three of the candidates correctly answered 11,000; Mancini underbid with 10,000. In another example, candidates were asked to write the amount of next year's proposed school budget. Orestis answered correctly with $31.8 million; Mancini and Hemphill wrote $32 million, and McBrady answered $31 million.

The pop-quiz format exposed other differences in candidates.

Three of the candidates said they "support the town's contribution toward the purchase of Clapboard Island," including McBrady, who in a recent interview said he would have argued for a smaller contribution from the town. Mancini said she does not support the contribution.

Hemphill and Orestis said they would consider an ordinance to "prohibit medical marijuana cultivation or dispensing in the town of Falmouth." Mancini and McBrady said they would not consider such an ordinance.

Three of the candidates said "environmental restrictions of land use in the town" are appropriate. Mancini said she'd like to see fewer restrictions.

Hemphill and Orestis said they would like to see more town-owned open space. Mancini and McBrady said the current amount is appropriate.

Other differences emerged after a lengthier discussion on regionalization, particularly the Town Council's decision to outsource assessing services to Cumberland County.

Hemphill, 53, owner of a preservation woodworking business, said the town already benefits from regionalized services, such as Metro's Falmouth Flyer and ecomaine waste disposal. He added that outsourced assessing has been successful for Cumberland and Yarmouth, and there's reason to believe it will work well for Falmouth. In general, if opportunities exist for regionalization, they should be investigated, Hemphill said.

Orestis, 48, chief executive officer of Life Care Funding, was one of only two councilors to vote against outsourcing the town's assessing services to Cumberland County. He said opportunities for regionalization should be approached on a case-by-case basis, but also said regionalization has been successful in the town in other areas. Regionalized emergency dispatch services, for instance, have become a profit center for Falmouth. 

Mancini, 31, a mother of three and a volunteer, said she would have been hesitant to outsource assessing because face-to-face service is "still important."

McBrady, 46, business development director for Zachau Construction, said there are benefits to regionalization, but he is not in favor of outsourcing assessing services. Other regionalization possibilities should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Orestis is seeking his second term. Chairwoman Teresa Pierce is termed out and is running for the state Legislature in House District 44.

Election Day is June 10.

Note: This story was edited for clarification. Incumbent candidate Chris Orestis was one of two councilors to vote against outsourcing the town's assessing services.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.