NORTH YARMOUTH — Two longtime residents are competing in this month’s special election for the Board of Selectmen seat vacated by Clark Whittier.
Keith Thompson of Bryn Lane, who was narrowly defeated by Jeanne Chadbourne in June’s regular Board of Selectmen election, is running again. His opponent Jim Moulton of Mill Road has previously served on the Board of Selectmen and School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors.
The winner of the Sept. 21 election will complete the final year of Whittier’s unexpired term. He resigned from the board June 30.
Also available in the election is a Budget Committee seat expiring in June 2018. Since no one submitted nomination papers for that seat, the town will approach the person who receives the most write-in votes about serving.
While two seats on the budget board were available this June, only one was filled in the election. The Board of Selectmen placed the vacancy on the special September ballot.
Moulton has lived in North Yarmouth 63 of his 66 years, is married, and has two daughters and five grandchildren. He has served 12 years on the Board of Selectmen, most recently from 2005 to 2008, and was on the School Board from 2002-2005 and 2012-2015.
The owner of Jim’s Auto Repair has also served six years on the Cumberland County Budget Advisory Committee and several years on the town Zoning Board of Appeals. He served on the Policy Committee during his time on the SAD 51 board.
Thompson, 65, is a retired aviator and chairman of the Spring Point Ledge Light Trust in South Portland, according to his website, nyaffairs.org. He is married and has lived in North Yarmouth for 17 years, and is reviewing data for the town from its traffic monitoring sign, looking for patterns and locations of greatest traffic issues.
“It was such a close election last time, so clearly I do have some support in town,” Thompson said Sept. 1. “Some of the people that voted for me the first time … urged me to try it again, so I figured I would.”
He said he has maintained his interest in serving on the board the past few months, and attends all its meetings. “If I do get elected, I should be prepared to take my seat on the board,” he said.
Two months after the winning candidate is seated, the town will vote on two referendum questions regarding development of the Village Center.
In the first, the Board of Selectmen recommends that North Yarmouth Memorial School, closed in June 2014, be redeveloped as a municipal and community campus. The existing Town Hall would be sold for housing or commercial development, and to create a municipal sewer system to help facilitate new development.
The second is the result of a successful citizen petition opposed to the selectmen’s plan.
It calls for the town to stop all spending and work concerning the study or development of a sewer system; rebuilding of Wescustogo Hall, the community gathering place destroyed by fire in August 2013, as called for in a 1997 agreement with the town; maintaining the existing Town Hall and making any necessary renovations or additions; seeking proposals for the school building, gathering citizen feedback on all of the proposals received, and sending a recommended plan for the school to a town vote.
“I just think there’s been a lack of vision,” concerning the school, Wescustogo and Town Hall, Moulton said Sept. 2. He said the town didn’t prepare for the school closing, even though it knew the building would be closed, and the sewer system work was placed on the November warrant without cost figures.
He said he supports the second referendum question, although he acknowledged that the competing questions could be confusing to some voters.
Moulton added that everyone with whom he has talked also opposes reducing minimum lot sizes to a quarter of an acre to accommodate the community septic system.
It is “really not in the rural character of the town, in my mind,” he said.
Thompson said he has yet to decide which option he prefers, noting that while he has been “generally supportive” of the original development question, there are many unanswered questions, including whether the town actually needs a sewer system.
“It’s really a 50-50 proposition for me right now,” he said.
Thompson said he has no issue with the citizens’ initiative question, as long as the voters are not confused.
“I think it’s going to be good as far as stimulating some discussion,” he added.
Thompson said his primary interest remains preserving the school’s gym for community use. “As for the rest of the building, if it’s going to be put to any use of all … I want to see it put to the best possible use for the town,” he said.
If the selectmen’s question fails, “it opens up a lot of possibilities, including getting requests for proposals, and soliciting some ideas from developers, to see if there is any interest in doing something with the building,” Thompson said.
He added that every time he is at the gym, he sees people engaged in activities there, “and I’d hate to see us lose that.”
Both candidates said the Board of Selectmen is going through a time of transition, with a new chairman, Alex Carr, and Chadbourne’s return.
“I think one of the things the town wants is to get some things expedited, and get some things moving,” such as the Village Center development issue, Thompson said. “Once the town votes on that, I think the board will have some direction from the town as to what the town wants them to do.”
Moulton said North Yarmouth residents are in a transition period, too, in light of the recent Town Charter change and switch from a town administrator to town manager.
He added that Town Manager Rosemary Roy “seems like a very capable person,” although communication between her and the Board of Selectmen could be better.
“I think that’s very important,” Moulton said.
Explaining why he’ll make a good selectman, Moulton said “it’s not my first go-around. I surely (will) be able to hit the ground running and have a pretty good knowledge of how the system works. … I think common sense has something to do with it, and I’ve always figured I was in touch with a good number of people around town.”
Thompson said he has demonstrated his interest by keeping up with town issues.
“I don’t have a particular agenda, (or) anything that I’m trying to push when I get in,” he said. “My interest is basically in trying to raise the level of common sense and making good decisions for the benefit of the town.”
Keith Thompson, left, and James Moulton are the candidates in a Sept. 21 special election for the North Yarmouth Board of Selectmen.