North Yarmouth residents meet slate of uncontested candidates

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Although there are no contested elections this year, the town held a Town Hall forum June 1 to introduce the community to the slate of candidates.

Steve Morrison of Brown Dog Drive and Jennifer Spiers of Marston Way are running unopposed for two Select Board seats being vacated by Alex Carr and Paul Napolitano. Michael Simmons of Farms Edge Road is running for Martha Leggat’s seat on the School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors.

Pam Ames of Gray Road and Bill Whitten of North Road are running for two of three open seats on the North Yarmouth Budget Committee, and Clark Baston is running for Cemetery Commission. All three are incumbents.

Voting takes place in the Middle School gym from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday, June 13.

The candidates fielded questions from audience members and moderator Rob Wood, a former selectman who chairs the Communications Advisory Committee.

Ames has lived in town since the early 1970s, had a career in project management and analysis at L.L. Bean, and has spent nine years on the Budget Committee. Asked what direction she would like to see the budget panel take, Ames said she would like to see it go back to working more closely with the Select Board.

“Usually before Town Meeting we go over things with the Select Board, and discuss where we’ve disagreed, or where we have agreed, so that we present … a united front from each group, so that the townspeople don’t get confused,” Ames said. “I’d like to see really emphasized this year, if possible.”

Whitten agreed “it’s very important that we work directly with the Select Board,” in order to “make some consensus prior to the Town Meeting, not at the Town Meeting.”

Born in Lincoln, Whitten’s career includes time in the Marine Corps, with TV and radio stations, the board at Cross Insurance Arena, and as Cumberland County’s assistant manager. He would like to boost efficiencies in spending by working with other towns.

Baston has lived in town since his birth in 1961, and said his grandmother and father were on the Cemetery Commission, on which he has served since he was 18. He is North Yarmouth’s Public Works director, and was also fire chief.

“We have a pretty good bunch in the cemetery; they’re very quiet, so we don’t get a lot of complaints,” he joked.

The commission oversees the town’s three cemeteries.

Simmons, who has lived in North Yarmouth for 13 years, is a financial advisor with two children in SAD 51 schools. Both his parents were educators.

“I think our schools are in some ways the lifeblood of our town, and I’m really proud of the school district we have here … and I want to be part of continuing that tradition of excellence,” Simmons said.

He noted that both SAD 51 schools are growing, putting a strain on capacity at the Mabel I. Wilson Elementary School in Cumberland.

“There’s no room left at MIW; I think that’s going to be one of the biggest challenges going forward,” Simmons said, noting that the school population is growing with the youngest students. “… We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to tackle that on a go-forward basis.”

Since moving to North Yarmouth in 1991, Morrison has served on the Planning Board since 1999 and runs a small real estate brokerage and development business with his wife.

He noted the lengthy amount of time the town has spent “wrangling” on a replacement structure for Wescustogo Hall, which burned down in 2013, as well as on issues like contract zoning and a new Town Hall.

But Morrison expressed enthusiasm that the town now has more of a road map with which to move forward, “and I think with my business background and a lot of time spent in land development … that I can come to the table with something to offer as we grow as a town.”

He said he is concerned about a lack of citizen participation in town businss, and would encourage smooth communication between all the town’s boards and committees.

The town is also exploring the fate of the former North Yarmouth Memorial School, which SAD 51 closed and transferred to the town in 2014. A plan is on the table to demolish part of the school, renovate the gym, stage and kitchen, and build an adjacent new Wescustogo Hall.

“I’m concerned that we’re demolishing a lot of good space,” Morrison said, adding that he would advocate temporary Town Hall quarters there, while renovations or new construction of a permanent facility takes place.

Resident Brian Sites read a statement on behalf of Spiers, who was unable to attend the forum. The statement said Spiers has lived in town seven years, and has a background in natural resources, environmental permitting and land use planning. Her resume includes time as assistant treasurer and tax liaison for the Cumberland Community Nursery School.

“As a member of the Select Board, I will advocate for the thoughtful consolidation of town properties; specifically an economical rehabilitation of NYMS that includes the public space, once offered by Westcustogo Hall, along with functional space that meets the present and future needs of our community,” Spiers stated. “Planned growth is one of the key issues impacting our town and my background and experience gives me a unique perspective to help guide this growth.”

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

A June 1 candidates forum in North Yarmouth included, from left, Michael Simmons for the School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors, Clark Baston for the Cemetery Commission, Bill Whitten and Pam Ames for the Budget Committee, and Steve Morrisson for the Select Board. Jennifer Spiers, also running for the Select Board, was unable to attend.

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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.