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Selectboard race tops Gill election

Prop. 21/2 override also on ballot

  • Gregory M. Snedeker
  • Fred O. Chase II

GILL — There is one race on this year’s town election ballot, for the seat on the Selectboard left open by Ann Banash’s decision not to run for re-election after 21 years on the board.

Fred O. Chase II of 278 Route 2 and Gregory M. Snedeker of 26 Trenholm Way have put themselves forward for a decision by voters Monday, with polls open from noon to 8 p.m. in the Public Safety Complex, 196 Main Road.

Voters will also be asked to approve a Proposition 2 1/ 2 debt exclusion, allowing the town to borrow $75,234 toward the $158,000 appropriated at the annual town meeting May 5 to replace the front half of the Public Safety Complex roof. The roof was installed in 1983 and includes layers of roofing paper containing asbestos, responsible for almost a quarter of the estimated cost.

Gary A. Bourbeau of 91 West Gill Road is running unopposed for a vacant two-year term on the Cemetery Commission and all other candidates are incumbents running unopposed.

Incumbents are as follows: Board of Assessors, Raymond E. Purington of 29 Atherton Road; tax collector, Veronica A. LaChance, 5B Mountain Road Estates; Cemetery Commission, Carrie R. Stevens, 79 North Cross Road; constables Fred O. Chase II of 278 Route 2, Fred O. Chase III of 278 Route 2 and Craig D. Gaudry of 121 Barney Hale Road; library trustee, Megan Bathory-Peeler of 471 Mount Hermon Road; Board of Health, Edward W. Galipault Jr. of 93 Boyle Road.

On a separate ballot, Gill residents will be asked to register their votes for the single Gill seat and two Montague seats on the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee up for election this year. There are no contested seats and one new name on that ballot.

Incumbent Sandra Brown of 58 River Road, Gill, is running unopposed to retain the Gill seat up for election.

Michael Langknecht of 14 North St., Montague Center, and April Reipold of 17 Chestnut St., Turners Falls, are seeking the two Montague seats.

Langknecht is an incumbent. Shelly Clark is not running for re-election after a two-year partial term, leaving open the second seat sought by Reipold.

Due to a vagary of the regional school district system, voters in both member towns vote for their own and their neighbor’s representatives.

Fred O. Chase II

Fred O. Chase II, 66, of 278 French King Highway, is running on the strength of his decades of experience in town affairs and believes there is room for improvement in town — fiscally and elsewhere.

“My main principle of getting involved is I just think things could be more cost-effective than what we’re doing right now. You’ve got to have schools, you’ve got to pay for transportation, you’ve got to pay for all this stuff but I think they need to look at it a little harder, as to how it’s being paid for and how it’s being spent,” Chase said.

Chase said he has been involved with the town since 1957 when he started mowing cemetery lawns while a student, and has since worked for various periods as a part-time employee of the highway department, firefighter, special police officer and dog officer, continues to serve as a town constable and was a member of the Finance Committee for five or six years, he said, stepping down because he also worked on town vehicles.

Chase is a mechanic and owns Fred’s 4-Wheel Drive Service on Route 2, behind A-J Cycle, where he and son Fred O. Chase III specialize in restoration of antique Mack trucks. In addition to his business, Chase is president of the Antique Truck Club of America, and said he has brought the nonprofit from bankruptcy back into the black, and said towns can be run like businesses.

“You don’t have to make a profit, but you do have to know where the money goes.” Chase believes that the cost estimate for the proposed Public Safety Complex roof project is exorbitantly high.

With the town’s small population and high percentage of retirees, Chase said it is important to think about the taxpayer.

Chase said he would like to see the town make further efforts toward energy efficiency, including investigating the possibility of investing in a furnace to burn the wood scraps generated by the highway department, to save on municipal energy costs. Chase said he was the last person to farm the former Marriamante Academy land now owned by the town and said he doesn’t argue with the Native American claims the site is a burial ground, but believes the land should be put to use with a center for the area’s history and prehistory, a hobby of his and a topic he thinks could draw tourists.

Chase also said he would like to see more involvement from town residents in the local government, pointing to the regular appeals distributed at town meetings for members to fill vacant volunteer posts. “You need to do something to enliven or activate the people,” he said.

Chase lives by his automotive shop with wife, Andrea.

Gregory M. Snedeker

Gregory M. Snedeker, 47, of 26 Trenholm Way, said he believes the town is doing well and is running on the strength of his experience in education, business, and town government.

“I’m not going in with a personal agenda. I think the town is in good shape and the Selectboard and committees have been doing good work. That makes me feel good about stepping into something that I think is sort of humming along at this point,” Snedeker said.

Snedeker said he has taught for almost 20 years and at every grade level from kindergarten through grad school, primarily music and music technology, and believes this experience would be an asset to the board in understanding changes in the field.

“It’s our biggest expense in the town, but as I keep pointing out it’s our biggest investment,” Snedeker said of the schools.

Snedeker said his three-year term on the Board of Assessors — from 2005 to 2008, kept from a second term by family obligations — started his interest in town politics.

Snedeker said he sees the Selectboard’s role as finding the balance between department budgets and between the needs of the town and the realities faced by taxpayers.

“To me that’s what the Selectboard is all about, hearing as many voices as you can and making a decision with that context what the balance should be,” Snedeker said.

Snedeker said he approves of what the town has been doing in terms of energy efficiency and the capital improvement work beginning around town, saying the Public Safety Complex, school and Town Hall all need attention.

“It’s important to proceed forward and do it now before it becomes a crisis,” he said, and before building costs increase further.

Snedeker said he disagrees with his opponent on the question of citizen engagement, saying people are too busy working to volunteer, and on the destination question.

Snedeker said he believes the town’s public and private schools, restaurants and river access make it the tourist destination Chase wants to create.

“I think that the direction that the town has been pursuing has been a good one,” Snedeker said.

Snedeker grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich., and moved to New England for work, first in investment and real estate financing, then teaching at the University of Massachusetts, University of Hartford, Vernon Elementary and is now the instrumental music director at Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Greenfield.

He has lived in Gill since 1992 with wife, Kathryn Roberts-Snedeker, and their 8-year-old daughter, who attends Gill Elementary School.

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