WINSLOW — Two former members of the U.S. Air Force are maneuvering to represent Winslow’s District 2 on the Town Council.

Longtime Democratic incumbent Paul Manson, 64, faces a newcomer to politics — Ben Twitchell, 67, a self-described conservative independent.

The candidates differ slightly on a few of the town’s current issues: consumer fireworks and an ongoing construction project at the town office. Neither candidate feels strongly about the future of the aging junior high school building.

Manson has served on the council for 16 consecutive years. He also served as chairman of the Democratic party in Winslow for more than five years during the late 1980s and early ’90s. He is also a Vietnam veteran, a former commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8835 and a member of the Knights of Columbus. Manson retired from the Maine Department of Transportation after an 11-year tenure, and worked for Scott Paper Mill for 29 years.

Regarding consumer fireworks, Manson believes the town has made the correct decision by following state laws that allow for sale and possession of pyrotechnics, but he favors some municipal restrictions on their use: only on weekends and holidays, and away from densely populated areas, he said.

In April, Manson was the lone councilor to support a proposal to build a two-story addition for the police station, saying town employees “deserve a little more respect” from the council.

The council authorized a single-story building instead, and the project was the subject of confusion, cost increases and a work stoppage by the state fire marshal in late summer. The fire marshal required the town to include upgrades to the town office before signing off on the project, which is still under way.

Manson said he wishes the town had taken steps throughout the years to keep the town office up to code “but many people wanted to save money.” He also wishes the building permits had been reviewed by the fire marshal before construction began, and regrets that a construction manager was hired before blueprints for the addition were completed and approved — an approach called design-build.

“Design-build is OK for a small job. This is not a small job,” he said.

Manson said the council will have to take a close look at the 80-year-old junior high school building soon and determine whether it’s still suitable.

“I think it’s a solid building — it’s a nice old building — but it may cost more to bring it up to code and repair it than what it’s worth,” he said. “We could add on to the elementary school or, God forbid, we might have to build something new. But what I think is most practical is to add on to the elementary school.”

Twitchell has never held an elected position, but he frequently attends the monthly council meetings. He served in the Air Force in 1963-67. For the past 16 years, he has served as a school bus driver for Vassalboro. Twitchell considers himself conservative but isn’t aligned with either party, he said.

“I vote for the people,” he said. “That’s the only way to do it.”

Twitchell believes the council could use a new voice — it’s a relatively quiet board, and few questions are asked. Twitchell said he’d model himself after councilor Ken Fletcher.

“I’ve seen Ken speak up and make a lot of sense, and a lot of people sit there and don’t do anything. I want to be one of the ones that does something,” he said.

Regarding fireworks, Twitchell said he has mixed feelings. He said fireworks use — and the complaints about them — were widespread during the summer but the town has quieted down considerably since then. He feels an ordinance to restrict their use would unfairly target responsible users and the town’s lone fireworks store, which “brings in tax revenue and employment.”

“I don’t even hear fireworks anymore,” he said. “I’m not going to say there won’t be an ordinance down the road, but a lot of the problems I see are personal conflicts (between neighbors) that could be taken care of and put to bed.”

Twitchell has a blunt assessment of the problems associated with the police station project.

“Somebody dropped the ball,” he said of the council. “Nobody was watching the program.”

After the project was restarted earlier this month, the council formed a committee to oversee construction — a move that Twitchell thinks should have been done sooner as a matter of protocol.

“Any type of project with that kind of money should have been overseen by someone,” he said.

Twitchell said he hasn’t gathered all the facts on the junior high school building, but he thinks classes should continue there as long as possible.

“Enrollment is down at the schools,” he said. “We don’t know how many (students) we’re going to have 10 years from now. Do we want to tear down that building when it’s still functional?”

Regardless of the election’s outcome, the longtime visitor of Town Council meetings knows one thing for certain.

“If I win or I lose, I’ll be there,” Twitchell said.

District 2 roughly encompasses the west-central area of town from Delaire Street south to Carter Memorial Drive and Garland Road west to the Kennebec River.

Ben McCanna — 861-9239
[email protected]

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