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Montague to elect selectman Tuesday

MONTAGUE — While the state elects a U.S. senator Tuesday, town residents have the additional responsibility of selecting a selectman. Next week, longtime Selectman Patricia Allen ends her tenure and either Michael Nelson or Jeanne Golrick will step into the year remaining in her term.

Nelson is known locally for his creation and management of two annual town events, the Franklin County Pumpkinfest and Spring Parade, and chairs the Board of Health.

Golrick is known for active participation in town meetings representing Precinct 2, and for legal disputes with Town Hall.

The three-member Board of Selectmen is the executive branch of town government, overseeing the various departments, setting the agenda for town meetings and the budget for voter approval. The selectmen also oversee liquor licenses, approve use of public property for town events, and have the authority to make smaller spending decisions and apply for grants.

Michael M. Nelson

Michael M. Nelson, 31, of 49 Greenfield Road, Montague City, said he is running for selectman because he wants to keep things rolling.

“I think that we are at a great place in the town right now. There’s lots of exciting things happening, lots of new events going on. There is a new excitement and enthusiasm, people are moving back into town, people are starting new businesses in town,” Nelson said. “We’re on this great momentum and I want to be part of the board that keeps it going.”

Nelson has served on the Board of Health since 2005, for the last three years as chairman, and said he intends to continue if elected selectman.

Nelson is also a town meeting member, representing Precinct 6, and a past member of the Greenfield Community College Foundation board of directors.

Nelson is young relative to the majority of participants in town government, but doesn’t think that this would work against him.

“I think that at 31 years old I have certainly proven my skills to be able to bring people together and to be able to pull off major events, and that’s something that I intend to bring to this position as well,” he said.

In 2010, Nelson began and has continued to organize the Franklin County Pumpkinfest, which brings crowds to Avenue A each fall for jack-o’-lanterns, food and music. The Franklin County Spring Parade, which wends its way around the top of the hill in Turners Falls, he also began and has run for three years, and outside of town he directs the county Relay for Life cancer fundraiser and the Franklin County Fair parade.

Blight is the biggest issue Nelson sees the selectmen tackling during the partial term.

“Certainly the biggest thing is going to be the blighted buildings in town. As much as good things are happening in multiple areas, there’s also things that aren’t happening or that have been slowing down,” Nelson said.

The former Strathmore Paper Mill and Montague Center School, he said, are the key buildings he would like to see something happen with, and hopes to further the current plans.

Nelson said he was against the closing of the Montage Center School and the best use of the property would be as a school, but said the town now has a developer with a good track record and it is time to move on to avoid another Railroad Salvage, a vacant and crumbling building near the Patch neighborhood.

While Nelson said he fully supports the developer, who proposes to renovate the building as apartments, but doesn’t support any further spending by the town to make the building acceptable to the developer.

A Montague native, Nelson graduated from Turners Falls High School in 1999 and earned his master’s in business administration from Fitchburg State College and is employed as Hampshire County’s public health emergency preparedness planner.

Nelson said his duties include preparing the county for public health emergencies, notably working with the Red Cross to coordinate shelters during the several weather emergencies of the past few years.

Jeanne A. Golrick

Jeanne A. Golrick, 59, of 11 West Main St., Millers Falls, said she is running for selectman because she wants transparency.

“Rights come with responsibilities. The right to live in a free country has the responsibility to participate that goes along with it. In this town I am discovering that they are not open and transparent and my right to live in a free country is being curtailed, so I have to participate,” Golrick said.

This doesn’t affect only her, she said, but everyone. Golrick said she believes in limited government and improvements through private investment rather than town or grant money.

Golrick has fought the town’s tax-taking of the 26-28, 30 and 34 East Main St. buildings for years. The town took the property in 2011, but it has continued in legal limbo. Golrick said she still has an open appeal but is no longer involved in the property, which she sold. Golrick has been involved in several legal disputes with the town, but said these are not her fault.

“All the cases that the townspeople claim are my fault, are not at all,” Golrick said. “They are brought by the town, the Fire Department, the Board of Health, an agency of the town.”

The Millers dispute could have been easily settled if the town were open and transparent, she said, and had they been the townspeople would have perhaps seen a different view.

A case in which she sued the town to stop a Millers Falls streetscape improvement she said was infringing on her property. Golrick said that was the only time she has sued the town. Superior and appeals court judges decided in favor of the town.

Golrick described herself as an at-home mother, wife and activist and said her age, life experience and education prepare her for the post. Age gives her perspective, being a mother and running the business of a home have prepared her for the business of running a town, she said, and her education as a teacher contributes.

Golrick holds a master’s degree in special education for learning-disabled adolescents from Lesley University and moved to town with husband, Peter Golrick, and two children, now grown, about 17 or 18 years ago to teach at the high school.

In other business, Golrick was a member of the group that purchased the Indeck co-generator power plant following its closure in the 1990s, dismantled and shipped it to Guatemala in 2006 and then sold the property, which has remained vacant since under different owners.

In addition to transparency, Golrick said as selectman she would address divisions among the villages by showing up at meetings early to hear concerns and including in the agenda a slot for each precinct.

Where to vote

Polls will be open on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., an hour later than the usual town voting hours, in the usual locations:

■ Precinct 1, Montague Center: Montague Center fire station, 28 Old Sunderland Road, Montague Center.

■ Precinct 2, Millers Falls and Lake Pleasant: Highland School Apartments community room, 446 Millers Falls Road, Millers Falls.

■ Precincts 3 and 4, the hill sections of Turners Falls: Hillcrest School auditorium, 30 Griswold St., Turners Falls.

■ Precinct 5, downtown Turners Falls: Montague Senior Center, 62 Fifth St., Turners Falls.

■ Precinct 6, the Patch neighborhood and Montague City: Public Safety Complex community room, 180 Turnpike Road, Turners Falls.

Ballots for the town and state elections are separate, and voters must check in and out separately for each.

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