2016-10-31 / Front Page

Six vie for Sanford Council

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By TAMMY WELLS Senior Staff Writer

SANFORD — Sanford will elect two councilors from a slate of six candidates Nov. 8. Council term are three years, and commence Jan. 1. At a recent candidates’ forum, they answered questions about the economy, the opioid crisis, and other issues facing the city.

Jeremy Mele

Jeremy Mele, in his last semester at Salem State University in Massachusetts, said he works two jobs – as a tour guide and in the university library – and now he wants to be a city councilor.

Mele said he is a newcomer to Sanford and a newcomer to politics, inspired to get involved by the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination by Bernie Sanders.

He said he believes raising the minimum wage will help working families.

“The burden on taxpayers will be lessened,” he said.

Mele said the demand for services and costs need to be balanced.

“Look at what the working people of Sanford are making and who can pay what,” he suggested.

He said education is a key to help steer young people away form drugs. “You have to start early ... and support after school programs that keep kids away from drugs.

He said punishment is not the answer for treating addicts. “I agree that drug addicts should be treated with rehabilitation, not the harshest punishments possible; dealers should get the harshest punishments.”

Mele said the upkeep of Sanford’s infrastructure is “incredibly important,” adding, “Businesses don’t want to come where roads aren’t properly maintained and hard to travel. Upkeep is essential,” he said.

Mele supports alternative energy – like the solar array proposed at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport by a private company.

As to housing, Mele said people live in apartments because they’re the most affordable option.

“We really need to see an increase in wages, so renters are in a better position to be homeowners, “ Mele said. “Any way to foster support of the working class will lead to more homeowners.”

Richard Terril

Richard Terril, 56, a Sanford resident for 25 years, said keeping city government out of the way of business would foster growth.

“We (already) have a set of codes, well established life codes, the national electric code and BOCA (the national building code).”

He said the city needs to build a solid infrastructure and do everything it can to foster a “fun economy.”

He praised Sanford’s parks and trail system. He said someone has to keep an eye on employees and that some city jobs aren’t needed.

Terril said Sanford’s biggest problem is taxes.

“We need to cut the budget,” he said.

Terril was raised in central Missouri, he is married, with two children and was schooled in electrical work and engineering. He said he does home maintenance and service work.

He is an advocate for increased treatment support for those addicted to drugs.

Terril said he at one time was addicted to narcotics prescribed by doctors for work-related injuries.

“Frankly, its scary,” he said. Terril pointed to the availability of alternative medicines and said physicians should think more carefully before prescribing narcotic painkillers .

“People around here are selling more prescriptions than taking them, and they’re indirectly killing people, and police have to pay more attention,” he said.

As to the rental housing situation, he pointed to out-of-state landlords.

“They can buy (the buildings) cheap, rent high and have very little taxes,” he said. “So many, as long as the checks are coming in, don’t care what the property looks like.”

Christopher Signore

Almost 30 years ago, life was very different than it is today for Sanford council candidate Christopher Signore.

“I’ve gone from sleeping on a park bench at 19 years old to owning a home,” he said recently. “So I come from all sorts of situations,” and can relate to other people, he said.

Signore, 48, has been in the insurance industry for 21 years. He and his wife have four children and live in Springvale.

“My goal is to do the best I can to help economic growth of the city, increase revenue and to teach our children about the perils of drug abuse,” he said.

Signore said he saw photographs on social media of water damage to an apartment where the landlord was unresponsive.

“When landlords don’t care, mold grows, kids get sick and that causes more problems,” he said. Signore said landlords should be made to look after their properties, “no matter what.”

He said Sanford needs to ramp up education, especially for younger children, about the dangers of drugs – age appropriate education – beginning in the home. He said he’d like to see school programs similar to the old DARE program. He said after school programs can help keep kids engaged and less apt to hang out and say “let’s try this.”

Signore said the Route 109 corridor needs to be upgraded, “so it looks like Sanford is open for business.”

He said the new high school and technical center, currently under construction, will produce “awesome students ready for business.”

He said the city needs to attract business and he wants to learn more about economic growth and development.

He said he is committed to doing the best he can if elected.

“I am a perpetual student and will learn where I need to learn,” if elected, he said.

Signore, a Connecticut transplant who moved to the area in 1992, spoke of his love of the city. He said “you couldn’t kick me out.”

Robert Stackpole

Robert Stackpole, 62, retired in June from a 35-year career in education. Married, he has three children and is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, the University of Southern Maine and Salem State College. He previously served 15 years on the Sanford School Committee, 13 as chairman. He was a member of the commission that wrote the 2013 Sanford charter, and served on the budget committee.

He pointed out he is familiar with budgets, having worked on 15 school budgets.

“The municipal budget is not much different; it is a balancing act, he said. “There are times when you put off projects to pay for something else, and then come back and get it done.”

He said in budgeting and on projects, Sanford has to trust its department heads, whom he said are well paid and educated and they are the best advisors in saying “this is what we need and this is what we don’t need.”

Dealing with the drug epidemic has to include both treatment and law enforcement, Stackpole said. And he said police and the medical community have to have the resources they need to save lives.

He pointed to some famous figures – historical and non-historical – like Eric Clapton – who have been addicted to heroin. “We don’t want to treat people with addictions as second class citizens,” Stackpole said.

On the business front, Stackpole said he is a strong supporter of entrepreneurship – something he said isn’t taught enough in high schools.

“We want our kids to come back and start a business,” he said. Stackpole said old mills not being used to their fullest potential could be the site of an indoor flea market or other type of market, where folks could sell their wares.

He said the statistic that shows 60 percent of Sanford’s tax base is single-family homes amazes him. He said he is looking to learn more about the tax base issue, and the issues surrounding multifamily housing.

Victor DiGregorio

Victor DiGregorio is looking for a new term on the City Council.

DiGregorio who won a recount by four votes following an election to fill a partial term two-years ago, said he hopes go focus on reducing the tax burden and getting rid of pay-per-bag trash disposal.

DiGregorio, 72, came to Sanford in 1973. Widowed, he is retired.

A week ago, he pleaded guilty to six counts of election fraud in connection with his 2015 bid for a vacancy in Maine House District 19, by submitting fraudulent qualifying contributions in his application for Clean Election Funding (which was denied) and was sentenced to 10 days of community service, which begins in April. His conviction triggered a clause in the city charter which automatically made him ineligible to continue as a councilor for the current term, which expires Dec. 31.

“We have to be concerned about our taxes, and non-taxes like ambulance fees and pay-as-you-throw,” he said. “We have to be concerned about how our monies are appropriated.”

He said a lot of organizations “give us a great hand in Sanford, with a focus on maintenance and care.”

He said schools should focus on conditioning students so they are less apt to take drugs. He said medical marijuana may be a catalyst for moving to more dangerous drugs, creating more problems.

He said the city is taking a first step in remedying the multi-family housing situation by creating the position of community development director.

DiGregorio said he is concerned about low-income people moving to Sanford from Lawrence and Lowell, Massachusetts. He said landlords should be encouraged, not forced, to properly maintain their rental properties.

He said Sanford needs to be concerned for its senior citizens, whom he believes make up the largest demographic in the city.

John Tuttle

In 1970, when John Tuttle graduated from Sanford High School, 60 percent of the property tax in town was paid by businesses and industry. Now, he pointed out, 62 percent is paid by owners of single-family dwellings.

“It is difficult for most of us to stay in our homes, particularly the elderly,” he pointed out. He noted just 9 percent of tax revenue comes from owners of multi-family dwellings.

He said there are “good landlords and bad” and he said the approval of the position of community development director will help with the multi-family housing issue.

“I remember the old neighborhoods – we were poor but we took pride in out properties, we need to reestablish that value again,” said.

Tuttle said about 10 years ago he was once asked to help a poor family, and went to visit.

“I saw three little girls cooking raw eggs on a pan over a fireplace and thought we could do better than that,” said Tuttle. “ I thought, are we in a third world country?”

Tuttle, 65, was elected to a one-year term on the City Council a year ago, and is seeking re-election. He is a retired emergency medical technician, and served 28 years in the Maine Legislature. Married, he has an adult daughter. He graduated from the University of Maine in Presque Isle and in Orono.

An EMT for 40 years, Tuttle said he’s seen the outcome of the opioid epidemic. He advocates expanding treatment and cracking down on dealers. He pointed out Sanford Police Chief Tom Connolly’s efforts to secure a $190,000 grant to help start a medication-assisted opioid program. He said there should be age appropriate education in the schools.

Tuttle has been a proponent of air freight for 20 years and believes now that the Manchester, New Hampshire, airport is cutting back, there may be an opening for Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport to get some of that business.

He said Sanford’s coming broadband project will fuel a renaissance in economic development.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or twells@journaltribune.com.

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