Trio of Bath councilors in re-election contests

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BATH — Election Day could prove interesting, with three City Council incumbents each facing a challenger.

Councilor James Omo is running again for his at-large seat. The North Street resident served two terms on the council, from 2005-11, and was elected to his current term in 2014.

Julie Ambrosino of Green Street is challenging Omo.

Councilors Greg Page of Washington Street and Susan Bauer of Dummer Street, both elected in 2014, are running again for their respective Ward 1 and Ward 6 seats.

They are challenged respectively by Phyllis Bailey of Riverview Road and Al Ferguson Jr. of Bowery Street.

Voters on Nov. 7 will also decide with other Regional School Unit 1 residents whether to build a new Morse High School at the Wing Farm business park. The state would pay $67.4 million of the $75.3 million cost; $7.2 million would be funded locally through borrowing, and $700,000 is earmarked from fundraising.

A $2.8 million local bond for street and sidewalk improvements will also be on the ballot. Where exactly that work will occur will be decided after the vote.

Residents will also vote on two City Charter amendments: One would bring candidate nomination deadlines for city elections in agreement with new Maine law, and the second would allow the city manager to live outside of Bath, but only with approval from a majority of the City Council.

At-Large

Ambrosino, 34, and her husband have lived in Bath three years after moving from Baltimore. She is a registered financial associate with Morgan Stanley and this is her first foray into politics.

“I enjoy working with people and being a problem solver, and helping them navigate their way through something to see resolution,” Ambrosino said.

She supports the high school and street improvement bonds. Ambrosino favors both charter changes as well, although she wants future city managers to at least live in towns adjacent to Bath.

“I wouldn’t be looking at someone in Wiscasset, I wouldn’t be looking at someone further down the road, like in Brunswick,” she said. “It would have to be right here, within a several-mile radius.”

She said her preference is that the next manager live in Bath, and pay city taxes.

If elected, Ambrosino would like to see Bath continue to support bringing small businesses to the city – the types that bring people in, and encourage foot traffic.

“I really want to see the commercial side of Bath … dig deep and keep thriving,” she said.

Omo, 47, moved to Bath with his parents in 1980, moved away in 1989 and returned in 2001. He runs Omo Construction.

He serves on the board of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark, and on the city’s Alewives and Welfare Review committees. Omo has also been on the South End Park and Waterfront Park committees, the Sagadahoc County Budget Committee and Bath’s Solid Waste and Recycling Committee and the Facilities, Lighting and Parking committees.

Before the formation of RSU 1 in 2008, Omo was the City Council’s representative to Bath’s School Board.

Omo supports the referendum questions, but wants voters to understand that although the project cost as listed on the ballot will not exceed $75.3 million, the state is funding most of that amount.

While he also favors changing the ordinance to allow someone living outside Bath to become city manager, he would prefer the person reside in the city.

Looking to the next three years, Omo said, “I am very interested in continuing our conversations about the housing issues in Bath,” noting the need for people along all parts of the age spectrum, from his parents to his youngest niece, to be able to afford to live there.

Omo recalled a time when the city almost had to close its landfill, but praised the direction in which the city has been moving as it better controls its waste elimination costs. He also lauded the city’s progress in developing the downtown and waterfront.

“There are a lot of good things we’ve been working on … and I’d really like to see them through,” he said.

Ward 1

Bailey, 65, is married and has two stepchildren. She has lived in Bath for 11 years, having vacationed to the area for decades beforehand.

She runs the Coventry Care Link office in Freeport, a long-term-care insurance company.

This is Bailey’s first run for an elected office. While in Arlington, Massachusetts, she served on a citywide commission on the reuse of an old hospital.

Bailey favors all the referendum questions. She called the new school “pretty essential, a real opportunity to keep our educational system viable.”

Concerning the manager question, “It would be wonderful if we could find somebody who lived in Bath, but in the reality of this day and age, with people having families and spouses with careers, you’re not always going to find that, so I’m open to it.”

Promoting the well-being of Bath residents across their lifespan is essential to Bailey. She said she would like to be part of the hiring process for a permanent replacement for recently departed City Manager Bill Giroux, and involved in an upcoming Maine Department of Transportation study in the city’s South End.

Page, 66, is married and spent a career as an executive chef. Now in semi-retirement, he runs a culinary herb and spice distribution company. He has spent all but 12 years of his life in the same house, spending his “prime earning years” as a chef in other states.

“I have a great feel of this ward,” he said.

He has served on the Bath Parks and Recreation Commission for 15 years, first as a citizen and now as a council representative.

Page, who favors all items on the November ballot, noted the significance of the search for the next city manager.

“We need to continue on the path that the city is on, because we are on a tremendous roll,” he said, pointing as an example to the improvements completed a year ago at the South End Park.

“Both my wife and I have been instrumental in the development of that project, from way before it even started,” he said. “Back when it was part of (Bath Iron Works’) component storage facility.”

Page noted the Kennebec River park’s impact not just for residents of the city but for the Mid-Coast region

Ward 6

Bauer, 53, is a chef at the Chewonki Foundation in Wiscasset, and previously was an administrator at the Bath Area Family YMCA, Hyde School, and Maine Jung Center in Brunswick.

She has two children, has lived in Bath 20 years, and serves on the Pattern Free Library board.

Bauer had been against the city manager charter amendment, but now is for it, “because I feel like we want the best person, the most experienced person, the most creative person,” she said. “And I don’t want to limit us as a city to that person having to live here.”

She noted that the manager should be part of the surrounding community, “so that they at least know the flavor of Bath.”

Bauer said she supports the other charter question, noting, “I think when it makes sense to align with state procedures we should.”

She also favors the high school and road improvement bonds. Concerning the latter, she noted, the work is “more than keeping Bath looking neat and tidy. The tax base is important to all of us and tending to our infrastructure is too. Keeping Bath vital can include attracting families and generations to continue to build community here.”

Environmental sustainability is important as Bauer looks to the next three years, she said, adding that the Solid Waste and Recycling Committee she sits on has more work to do in terms of “reducing the amount of garbage that we generate as  a community.”

Ferguson, 66, is married and now retired, having worked for Ferguson Security for 11 years. He has lived in Bath since 2003, and has spent about four years on the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, from which he would have to resign if elected to the council.

Ferguson has also been on the facilities committee for Grace Episcopal Church for 11 years, and is a member of both the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection and the Loss Prevention Foundation.

In asking his constituents what they would like to see Bath accomplish in the next three years, Ferguson said bus service on Saturdays in order to attend the farmers market without paying for a taxi was one item, along with more mixed-income housing and stronger enforcement of motorists not obeying speed limits and stop signs.

“Going in, whether I have a personal agenda or not is not the question,” he said. “The question would be, what do my constituents want.”

Ferguson supports the infrastructure bond, but hopes the work is not concentrated in one area of the city. He is also in favor of the school bond and elections charter amendment, but opposes the city manager amendment.

Allowing a manager not to live in Bath “would be like me saying, ‘I’ll represent Ward 6 but I’ll live in Phippsburg,'” Ferguson said. “There was a reason that they put it in the charter, and I don’t think the charter should be changed on that (matter).”

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

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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.