Selectmen's Debate: Investment vs. Individuals
The five candidates for the two open spots on the Board of Selectmen squared off on Wednesday night in a live televised debate.
A line became clear between the five candidates running for the two seats on the Board of Selectmen at Wakefield Community Access Television's live debate on Wednesday night, with three candidates supporting town-wide investment, and two candidates in favor of empowering individuals.
Several candidates - Greg Liakos, Brian Falvey, and Paul DiNocco, noted that the during the difficult economic conditions of the last several years, the town of Wakefield had underinvested in infrastructure, retirement obligations, and aging buildings.
"If you defer maintenance, you're just kicking the can down the road," said candidate Greg Liakos. "It sounds great to give money back, but we should be investing in our town's assets."
Falvey brought up the recent issue the current Board of Selectmen addressed of whether or not to return a windfall savings in health care of $500,000 through lowering the tax rate for residents (an expected amount of $44 per person) or to put the money towards issues the town needs to address.
"That's $500,000 we could be spending on infrastructure," he said. "Roads, investment, the town's retirement fund - it's time to start looking at those."
DiNocco said the $500,000 spent at the town level would bring back greater returns to each individual than a $44 reimbursement.
"We can return money to the library budget for books, we can hire a fire prevention officer, we can add $500,000 to the retirement fund," he said.
On the other hand, candidates Phyllis Hull and Phillip Renzullo spoke up for the Wakefield citizens who could benefit more from less town services and more money in their own pockets.
"Not only are we not going to give $44 back, but we'd be asking for another $170 for a debt exclusion," Hull said. "$500,000 - what is the benefit of that to the town?"
Renzullo said he was in favor of keeping the $500,000 for the town. "The $40 is not enough to make a real difference to any individual," he said.
However, in general, he said he is against higher taxes.
"When you say we have underinvested in Wakefield, you're saying people haven't paid enough in taxes," he said. "When you say invest, it means you're going to have to pay."
Galvin Middle School
All the candidates but one supported the proposed building of a new Galvin Middle School.
Candidates DiNocco, Liakos, Falvey and Renzullo all agreed that the town should pass a debt exclusion to pay for the new middle school.
"We have to look at the long-term here," said DiNocco. "A new school will keep kids in the system and it will improve property values.
Liakos called the decision a "no brainer." "You can compare it to an older car," he said. "I have a Subaru with $125,000 miles on it. I've already had to replace the brakes, replace the tranmission, and at some point, you need to just buy a new car. That's what we have to do for this school."
Falvey called the debt exclusion to pay for a new school "The right thing to do." "The state is trying to give us $40 million dollars," he said. "With that grant from the state, the cost of a new school is actually cheaper. A yes vote is cheaper than a no. That's good for everybody."
Reunzullo said he was personally in favor of a new Galvin Middle School, but that the final decision was the town's.
"Ultimately, people have to say what they want. If they want a new school, we do it in the most cost effective way," he said.
The only candidate who opposed passing a debt exclusion to build a new school was Phyllis Hull.
"Everyone is saying it will cost $90 million to renovate, but no one has given any real figures," she said. "Renovate and repair is the right solution, rather than destroying the perfectly good building that's already there."
To catch the full debate, visit Wakefield Community Acccess Television's website: www.wcatwakefield.org for the schedule of when the debate will be replayed. For coverage of the School Committee debate, see here.