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Greenfield Town Council hopefuls share thoughts on hot topics

  • The Greenfield Town Hall Recorder File Photo/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Thursday, October 19, 2017

GREENFIELD — On a night when most of the nine candidates stuck to their script, the race for Precinct 5 gathered the most attention, with two candidates both sharp on their subjects and also ready to throw a couple of jabs during a candidate forum for Town Council at GCTV Thursday.

As the candidates for Precincts 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 shared their thoughts on the sweeping 1 percent budget cut this past year, Precinct 5 candidate Mark Odato took a decisive turn in the tone of the evening, right after his opponent Tim Dolan joined several others in stating his opposition to that cut.

“Well, 1 percent across the board cuts are the reason I’m dressed real pretty here tonight,” Odato started, before immediately changing course, taking an opportunity to address Dolan.

“There’s a reason Isaac Mass gets away with the malarkey he gets away with,” Odato continued. “He knows local law, he knows rhetoric, he knows Robert’s Rules, he knows parliamentary procedure, he knows state law, and if he can’t dazzle you, he’ll bamboozle you. Tim’s a great guy. The reason I’m still sitting here despite Tim being a great guy is I match him in local and state law, in parliamentary procedure, and I know how to talk. You might not agree with what I’m saying, but this cat knows how to talk.”

Later on, in Dolan’s closing remarks, he reiterated his platforms of working toward evidence-based answers to fight the opioid epidemic and supporting public education, before acknowledging the craft of his candidate, saying he’s learned a lot during this forum as they compete for the seat being left by Robert Wainstein.

The issues

Nine candidates, including unchallenged incumbent from Precinct 9, Daniel Leonovich, touched on issues including the tax base, the library, the Wi-Fi project of Greenfield Community Energy and Technology (GCET), what to do with tax dollars regarding the First National Bank, the opioid epidemic and the future prosperity of the town, along with its sustainability for young families.

The issues were far-ranging, but often harked back to how the tax dollar would be best spent, showing the split in the room between conservative and liberal leaning candidates.

Library

Candidates stated rousing support for the library, though they differed on whether the building should be revitalized or a new library built. That project could also set off a process that would see the police station moving into the downtown area and a public safety complex formed.

“I’ll support it if we can ensure that the people will not have to pay too much taxes for it,” Precinct 7 candidate Dan Oros said.

His opponent, Otis Wheeler, said the Town Council would be “foolish not to take” state funding to help pay for it.

“The conditions now are good to make it happen,” Wheeler said. “We need to keep the library downtown. It’s imperative that we do that.”

GCET

The internet service that is being built in part by the town and has caught itself in headlines, leading to the firing of its director, was extolled by some candidates, who spoke with a grin ear-to-ear about having GCET’s service themselves and to its quality in price and performance.

A few questioned it and whether the town should spend more money to significantly help it get off the ground.

“It may have gotten off on the wrong foot but it is an excellent product,” incumbent Leonovich said. “It is a revenue generator for the town.”

Downtown

A majority of the night’s conversation circled around commerce in downtown. Points were made from what types of businesses to bring in — local or corporate — and how to look at tax breaks and their influence on young families moving to Greenfield. The discussion was also inherently wrapped around a broader conversation to improve the school district.

One of the panel questions —which were delivered by the Greenfield Recorder and League of Women Voters of Franklin County — asked about the future of the First National Bank.

While Precinct 8 candidate Kelly Dixon said she would need to look at the details in terms of costs for the best plan for the vacant building, opponent Douglas Mayo said he’s in favor of its reuse, which could bring a “great boom” for the Greenfield economy.

Opioid epidemic

With an ordinance to regulate needle exchange having been voted down by the Town Council the night prior, the opioid epidemic was acknowledged among the candidates as a serious issue in town, though ideas differed on what to do about it.

Perhaps the most compelling account came from Precinct 6 candidate Russell Johnson, who spoke to the struggles two of his sons faced because of opioids.

“I almost lost my middle son to heroin abuse,” Johnson said on live television.

“I think we should do whatever we can to educate ourselves,” Johnson continued. “I don’t know if I’m for free needle exchange, but I am for where they can use in a safe place.”

His opponent, Sheila Gilmour spoke about the need to lean on the knowledge of experts.

“As long as we maintain our focus on methods that have been researched by doctors and public health workers,” Gilmour said.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at: jsolomon@recorder.com