WATERVILLE — Mayoral candidates Karen Heck, Andrew Roy and Dana Sennett fielded a lot of questions during an hour-long debate Monday night at Thomas College.

And their responses amounted to more than time and space would allow in the next day’s paper.

The following is a roundup of additional moments from the forum, which was co-sponsored by the Morning Sentinel and attracted more than 100 people. The debate was moderated by James Libby, an associate professor who teaches economics and political science at the college.

Taxes and services

Asked whether they’d choose decreased services or increased taxes, the candidates all said such a decision would be out of their control.

Heck, an unenrolled candidate, said it’s up to city residents to make that call.

Sennett, a Democrat and the incumbent mayor, said his focus would be on approving a “sound, responsible budget.”

Roy, a Republican, said he’d request a citizen forum on the matter, though “I’d rather see a little bit less service, because I know if you give out a handout, more people are going to ask for more and expect that handout.”

At another point, Roy singled out the police department in discussing city services, saying police “had their opportunity to move in with the fire department, and chose not to, because the two chiefs did not get along.” Roy seemed to be referring to the City Council’s recent decision to spend up to $2.5 million for a new police station to replace the current basement location in City Hall.

Police Chief Joseph Massey, who did not attend the debate, said Tuesday that he couldn’t comment on Roy’s statement because he was not the chief when the police-fire building idea was considered several years ago.

“But I was here at the time and that’s not my recollection,” Massey said of Roy’s statement.

Secret good news?

Sennett, in his closing statement, said that he met recently with the Rosenthal family. Bob Rosenthal owns the Elm Plaza shopping center on upper Main Street.

“Within three years there’s big opportunities that are coming to the city of Waterville — I can’t disclose what those are — but we’re going to see a great many changes and I want to be part of those,” Sennett said.

Sennett on Tuesday again declined to clarify what he was talking about. Attempts to reach Rosenthal on Tuesday were not successful.

Young people in Waterville

Asked how they intend to keep teenagers in Waterville as they grow up, Roy said he’d like to see more involvement at City Council meetings and explain their needs.

“It really is up to them what they’d like to see done here in Waterville,” Roy said. “It’s not so much about the city creating jobs for everyone to stay. It is up to the city to allow people to expand their businesses so they can have real jobs, not Walmart jobs. But, again, if we don’t know what they’re looking for, it’s hard to really create anything for them.”

Heck said young people could use help with job placement at local businesses or starting their own with information on licensing requirements. She touted the KV Connect group for 20- to 40-year-olds as a key networking resource.

Still, “there are some kids who might want to leave and explore what else is out there,” Heck said. “But I hope that we’re going to create a town that they’ll want to come back to.”

Sennett noted that his 15-year-old son was in the audience and quipped, “It’s almost like you want to get rid of them; you don’t want to keep them.” Providing teens with opportunities is key, he said, such as athletics, theater and music, and making sure the programs are available so “young people feel the confidence and the security to go out on their own and seek out opportunities.”

Partisan elections

The candidates all agreed that Waterville’s partisan election system — in which candidates identify with a political party or as unenrolled — should probably be changed.

They also questioned the need to maintain the city’s ward system, in which city councilors represent various wards throughout the city.

“It isn’t whether a D, or R, or independent; it’s whether you really want to be a part of the community and serve the municipality,” Sennett said. “We should probably take a look at the way the council is set up and how people are elected.”

Roy said, “I personally think the system has failed for many years.”

And Heck, saying the ward system should be dismantled, added: “People don’t even know what ward they live in. When I went out to get signatures I would ask people and they’d say, ‘I don’t know.’

“And as an unenrolled person, I absolutely think that parties have outlived their usefulness, especially in cities, in localities.”

School consolidation

One question submitted from an audience member asked for the candidates’ views on school consolidation efforts.

Sennett said he did not like it at first, but then he talked to his wife who attended a regional school where the quality of education was good. “I’m not quite so sure we saved any money. I do realize there’s high administration costs. So, I’m still kind of out on whether the regionalization of schools is working or not.”

Roy said we shouldn’t “fix something that’s not broken.”

“I went to Winslow and I personally wouldn’t want to go to a regional high school, due to the fact that once you put more kids in one building, it’s hard to get a solid education,” Roy said.

Heck said regionalization already exists in several instances, such as students from other communities attending vocational classes and students having options to take college courses.

“I think that people don’t like the idea of somebody telling them they have to collaborate or consolidate, but I think that it’s occurring and happening, and I think it’s a good idea,” she said.

Helping others

Roy was asked to explain an acronym, HOPE, on his Facebook page that stands for Helping Other People Everyday (sic).

“My goal is on a daily basis to reach out to as many people as I know, and don’t know, on the Internet and in person, just to listen to how their day is going,” Roy said. “Because a lot of people don’t have that these days. It’s kind of like before therapists came around, people used to talk to their friends.”

For example, Roy said, he volunteers at Central Maine Recovery Group on College Avenue. “It helps me, more than it probably helps them. Because I believe in giving in order to receive,” he said.

Light moments

The debate drew some laughs, too.

Libby noted that Sennett’s Facebook page had “liked” many community organizations, such as the Waterville Opera House, Railroad Square Cinema and Colby College. But not Thomas College, Libby said, and he asked Sennett how he intends “to prioritize Thomas College in the future given the fact that we’re among Waterville’s largest employers and fastest growing?”

Sennett said his teenage son, Will Sennett, set up the Facebook page for him. “I’m sure it was just an oversight,” Sennett said. “I recognize Thomas a major employer.”

By Tuesday morning, Sennett’s campaign Facebook page had liked Thomas College.

Sennett said he’s been impressed with the growth of Thomas College, particularly its Harold Alfond Athletic Center. “I would encourage you to get some ice hockey here now. I think you’re ready for it,” he said.

When the candidates were asked to give closing statements, Libby said he’d start, again, with Heck.

“Is this ‘ladies first’ night?” Heck asked.

“That’s the only way to do it, in my experience,” Libby said.

Scott Monroe — 861-9239

[email protected]

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