SCARBOROUGH — Only three of the six town councilor candidates were able to attend an informal forum Tuesday with the Republican Committee, but those three vied for the GOP’s support in the upcoming election.
Paul Andriulli and James Benedict, who attended the round-table meeting, are running for one of three available Town Council seats, along with incumbent Councilors Karen D’Andrea and Richard Sullivan. Planning Board member Kerry Corthell, who is seeking a two-year council term against incumbent Councilor Ronald Ahlquist, also attended.
The candidates fielded questions about leadership and experience, as well as more specific queries about Higgins Beach parking.
Annalee Rosenblatt, chairwoman of the Scarborough Republican Committee and a candidate for county commissioner, presided over the forum.
When asked to identify the biggest problem facing Scarborough, the candidates offered different answers.
“To get more business-friendly is the big thing here,” Andriulli said. “We have a lot of restrictions for contractors to deal with. Exceeding the state’s rules adds cost. Everything we do in the town costs us more. That’s why homes are so expensive.”
Corthell disagreed, saying she is happy the town has “high standards” that prevent it from looking like “Saco, or Biddeford, or other areas that don’t have as good an appearance.”
“The biggest issue I’ve seen deals with the schools and the school budgets,” Corthell said. She told the committee that academic jobs have been cut while sports coaches continued to be paid. As councilor, she said, she’d prevent academic cuts as much as possible.
Benedict didn’t state a specific problem as the town’s greatest, but said he’d be a fiscal conservative and shake up the council.
“My goal, if elected, is to bring reform to the town,” he said. “We’ve seen that change has not brought any positive effect, especially financial. We need to deal with what we have, what we need, and what we can get.”
When asked about whether they would have supported the plan that put parking spaces along Bayview Avenue on Higgins Beach, candidates mostly dodged the question.
Andriulli and Benedict both agreed that the wishes of Higgins Beach voters outweigh the wishes and needs of residents form other parts of Scarborough or beach-goers who lived outside the town.
“You’ve got to go where the money is,” Benedict said. “The money is with the people who live there, not the people who are visiting. “
Corthell said she’d have to consider all sides of the debate, without giving special deference to residents of Higgins Beach, before deciding on a parking plan. But, she said, it would include some on-street parking.
“I think some parking on the streets is appropriate, especially for handicapped people and people off-loading things,” she said. But “I’d be amenable to reducing that.”
But the issue with the most possible impact for the town was the subject of federal or state funding. Andriulli and Benedict said they’d eye offers of funds from the state or federal government skeptically.
“Getting money from the state is like borrowing from your mother in-law: She owns you,” Andriulli said. “Sometimes it’s easier just to say no.”Answering the same question, Benedict said: “There’s nothing free in this world.”
Corthell said accepting outside funds sometimes make sense and sometimes doesn’t, but promised she’d do her due diligence in making the decision.
“(Town Manager) Tom Hall and his staff will rue the day I’m elected because I’ll always be asking them for more information, more reports,” she said.
Here are the upcoming opportunities to meet and grill candidates in Scarborough:
• Higgins Beach Neighborhood Association Candidates Night, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the Higgins Beach Inn.
• Scarborough Community Chamber Candidates Night, 6:30 to 9 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 13, Town Hall. A chamber member will moderate the event, with questions coming from the organization and from representatives of local news outlets, including The Forecaster.