Northfield Selectboard candidates discuss business revitalization, climate change and more at forum

  • Northfield Selectboard candidates Mary Bowen, Bernard “Bernie” Boudreau and Alex Meisner during a candidates forum at the Centennial House Bed and Breakfast last week. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

  • WALKER

Staff Writer
Published: 5/2/2021 4:00:25 PM

NORTHFIELD — Ahead of Tuesday’s election, candidates for Selectboard gathered for a broadcast forum and answered questions submitted by residents, with topics ranging from business revitalization to climate change preparedness.

The hour-long discussion, moderated by Shirley Keech and hosted by the Northfield Area Tourism and Business Association (NATABA) and Transition Northfield, can be found on the Bernardston-Northfield Community Television Facebook page.

Due to an increase in the number of Selectboard members from three to five, there are no contests between the three candidates seeking the three available seats. Mary Bowen is running for a new two-year seat, Bernard “Bernie” Boudreau is running for a new three-year seat and current Selectboard Chair Alexander Meisner is seeking re-election to another three-year term.

Asked how she would attract new business, Bowen, who co-owns the Northfield Creamie with her husband, Tim, said she is interested in the recent $30,000 Local Rapid Recovery Planning Program grant that will pay for a consultant, assigned by the state, to help “strategize how we can revitalize downtown” and build a “comprehensive idea of what it takes to build a small town.” A later question asked how candidates thought Northfield could “keep its New England charm” while supporting the goals of a growing Moody Center. Boudreau and Meisner pointed to town zoning and planning to protect the town’s “charm,” while noting the importance of remaining open to conversation with The Moody Center.

“You’re not going to please everybody, but I think you have to say what’s best for the town of Northfield,” Boudreau said. “As the Selectboard, we’d have to listen to the people of Northfield and make those decisions accordingly.”

Speaking to business revitalization, Meisner said out-of-state drivers pass through, but do not stop and spend money in Northfield. While he previously supported a gas station in town, Meisner has changed his stance and pushed for an electric vehicle charging station at Town Hall, which was approved at last year’s Annual Town Meeting and has since been installed.

“If we get them to stop in town and charge up their electric vehicle, where can they go?” Meisner said. “They can go to the Creamie, they can go to Mim’s, they can go to the IGA. There’s places for them to stop, but we need more. I think if we have a pro-business Selectboard going forward, we can really brainstorm what else we can do to get people to stop in town — to make this town self-sufficient.”

Meisner said the charging station is in line with a national shift toward electric, solar and wind power, prompting Keech to ask candidates what they would do to help the town prepare for the effects of climate change. Boudreau agreed with the need to transition to renewable energies, and pursue grant opportunities for green initiatives.

“It’s obvious that the federal government is going to push a transition away from fossil fuels, so I think we have to be aware of those grants, and other things we can do here to get clean energy in the area,” Boudreau said.

Bowen spoke in support of solar power, and alluded to a months-long Planning Board public hearing process for proposed solar arrays on land owned by Four Star Farms.

“I really would like some solar acceptance within the town,” Bowen said. “If people want to put up solar on their own property, I don’t think that we should be giving them so much pushback. A lot of people hate it visually, but if you’re thinking about our future, you’re thinking about solar and the benefits of it.”

Board of Sewer Commissioners race

Boudreau is also running for the Board of Sewer Commissioners in a contested race against Tom Walker, Northfield’s highway superintendent. Walker was unable to attend last week’s discussion, but Keech read a written statement on his behalf.

Walker previously served on the Board of Sewer Commissioners for 12 years, and said he has a knowledge of the wastewater treatment plant and budget. He also worked in the private sector of municipal sewer work for more than 40 years. He said the Northfield plant needs upgrades, and recommended cost savings by conducting repairs “in-house.” He also said he would look into ways to generate new income for the plant, which currently has 288 users.

Boudreau has held his wastewater license and worked in this field since 2003. He works as a high-pressure boiler operator at Coca-Cola in Northampton, and has been chief operator for six years. He said he has been involved in multi-million dollar upgrades at Coca-Cola, and this professional experience will help him transition onto the Board of Sewer Commissioners, if elected.

Polls for Tuesday’s town election will be open from noon to 8 p.m. at Town Hall. Residents may still request an absentee ballot from Town Clerk Dan Campbell, townclerk@northfieldma.gov or 413-498-2901, ext. 112, between 9 a.m. and noon on Monday. Completed ballots should be returned to the dropbox at the rear entrance of Town Hall before polls close.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.




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