WATERVILLE — With the election a week away, the city’s garbage collection program is still one of the top issues on voters’ minds, the three candidates for mayor say.

Steve Aucoin, Nick Isgro and Karen Rancourt-Thomas will discuss that issue when they answer questions, some posed by the audience, in a debate Thursday night at Thomas College, their final public appearance together before next Tuesday’s election.

The debate, sponsored by the Morning Sentinel and Thomas College, will be from 6 to 7 p.m. in Ayotte Auditorium on the college’s campus on West River Road. Democrat Aucoin, Republican Isgro and Rancourt-Thomas, a Democrat running with no party affiliation, will answer questions posed by moderator Jim Libby, the college’s academic dean and a professor of business administration.

The questions were developed by Libby and Morning Sentinel staff, and more questions are expected to come Thursday from audience members, according to Scott Monroe, managing editor of the Morning Sentinel and the Kennebec Journal.

“We want to encourage Waterville residents to attend this debate at Thomas College so they can learn more about all three candidates and make an informed decision at the ballot box,” Monroe said. “The mayor’s position is key, so we hope the candidates will have a robust discussion about important city issues and policies.”

The candidates will have up to three minutes for opening and closing statements and will be given up to two minutes to respond to questions. Libby will decide whether to ask follow-up questions or seek clarification on an issue, and he will pose any questions submitted by members of the audience.


“We won’t let candidates know what the questions are ahead of time, but they certainly will be focused on the top issues facing the city, from economic development and taxes, to city services and leadership style,” Monroe said.


One of the hottest topics Thursday will be the city’s pay-as-you-throw garbage collection program, which began last month.

Aucoin, 68, maintenance director for Alfond Youth Center and a former city councilor, said it’s one of the issues he hears the most about as he campaigns around the city.

Aucoin said he has knocked on at least 2,000 doors, and many residents have told him they really like some aspects of pay-as-you-throw.

“Most people are in favor of, and are glad for, curbside recycling, but they’re really mad about the price and the durability of the trash bags,” he said. “I don’t really like top-down stuff, so I’m listening to people, and people are coming up with ideas of how to maybe fix this.


“Some say we could use regular bags with stickers, and they ask how come the bags are not manufactured in Maine,” he said. “Hardly anyone said, ‘This system stinks; let’s throw it away.'”

Isgro, 33, controller at Skowhegan Savings Bank and treasurer of the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers in Waterville, said, “Pay-as-you-throw remains an issue, but people are really interested in finding a solution that works for everyone and keeps Waterville recycling.”

Rancourt-Thomas, 50, a city councilor representing Ward 7 and teacher’s aide at Waterville Junior High School, said, “It is the number one issue that really resonated with people — that the council wasn’t listening to them.

“They like the recycling, but don’t want it every two weeks,” she said. “If they have a family — I have three children — you can accumulate a lot of recycling in a week, and it’s difficult if you don’t have a garage or someplace to put it. They like recycling, but they like to see it weekly, not biweekly.”

But there are other issues that the candidates are hearing about, too.

Aucoin, for instance, said he hears a lot about Gov. Paul LePage, Waterville’s mayor from 2004 to January 2011.


“They’re so mad,” Aucoin said. “They think LePage has just been a disaster, not only fiscally and personally, but the image of the state has suffered for it, and he’s just made scapegoats of the poorest of the poor.”

Isgro said the issue residents are most concerned about is the need to rebuild Waterville’s economy.

“They know we need to bring in good-paying jobs and work to reduce the tax burden,” Isgro said. “Residents also agree that we need to focus on revitalizing our neighborhoods — the areas outside of Main Street.”

Rancourt-Thomas said she hears about the property tax rate and a property revaluation the council approved recently. Residents don’t understand why the city will not pay for trash removal, but can spend money for a revaluation.

“Do we really need to spend X amount of money on this revaluation?” she said. “People aren’t happy with that.”



There are 11,182 registered voters in Waterville: 4,588 Democrats, 1,960 Republicans, 371 Green Party members and 4,263 unenrolled voters, City Clerk Patti Dubois said.

Rancourt-Thomas said she has heard a lot of people say that the fact she is running as a Democrat, but with no party affiliation, is splitting the Democratic vote, but she said she does not think that will happen.

She doesn’t think the election is about party, but about the candidates.

“Nick is lacking experience and Steve is a great guy, but I think he has been out of politics too long,” she said. “He is a very smart man, but I just think the time for me is now.”

Aucoin said he is the only one who has proven by his actions that he can include a broad spectrum of people in developing the assets of the city. He developed the community events North End Night and Kids With Cameras without using public money, he said. “I am the only one who has done these things. It’s not about leadership style.”

Isgro said that he’s heard “frequently as people look at the three candidates, two of which have served in office before, is it’s time for some new blood and fresh ideas in there.”


All three candidates cited the need to keep knocking on doors and listening to voters as things they must do in order to win the election.


Waterville voters will decide not only the mayoral race next week, but also three city council races and a referendum question asking voters to consider approving revisions to the city charter.

It will be the second time voters get a chance to weigh in on proposed revisions to the charter that mostly represent administrative or language changes, according to City Councilor Ed Lachowicz, who was co-chairman of the commission. But several of the items are significant, including a change to the way members are appointed to fill vacancies on the City Council.

The city’s Charter Commission voted unanimously to recommend the revisions in 2013, and voters last November approved them by a wide margin, but not enough people voted in the election. The state requires that a charter revision be approved in an election that draws voters equal to 30 percent of the number that voted in the previous gubernatorial election. Some 5,446 voted in the 2010 election, which meant 1,634 needed to vote for the charter revisions, but only 1,403 cast ballots last year.

The council revision change would require members to write nominations to replace a member on a slip of paper, with the nominee with the most votes winning the seat. As it now stands, a council member nominates someone for a seat and other councilors vote to approve or reject the nomination. In the event of a tie, no one would be nominated until the next council meeting, when the process would be repeated. The charter revision also proposes that the mayor not be able to break a tie.


Other proposed revisions:

• Allow the city clerk to pick wardens and ward clerks, which are now elected positions. Wardens supervise areas and activities at the polling place and ward clerks assist the warden.

Lachowicz said it’s hard to get people to run for the position, and the change “also lets the city clerk decide, based on actual qualifications, who should work the polls because you want skilled people at the polls, or at least trained people.”

• Authorize city councilors to decide whether a councilor who misses three consecutive council meetings should be removed from the council.

The revisions change petitions for recall, referendums and initiatives to require the number of signatures gathered to be equal to a percentage of the number who voted in the last gubernatorial election, rather than the last municipal election.

• The council would create a committee to create a code of ethics, which is currently a page in the city charter, according to Lachowicz.



City council elections on the ballot include:

• Ward 2, Republican Zachary T. Bickford, Democrat Nathaniel J. White, and Normand P. Veilleux, who is running with no political party affiliation.

• Ward 4, incumbent Democrat Erik Thomas and Republican newcomer Sydney R. Mayhew.

• Ward 6, incumbent Democrat Dana V. Bushee and newcomer Jibryne E. Karter III, who is running with no party affiliation.

Running unopposed for Board of Education: Ward 2, Democrat Susan M. Reisert; Ward 4, incumbent Democrat Maryanne Bernier; Ward 6, incumbent Democrat Elizabeth A. Bickford.


Democrats Patricia A. Gorman and Joan M. Sanzenbacher are running for two city-wide seats on the Kennebec Water District board of trustees.

The following are running for ward clerk: Ward 1, Democrat Nancy A. Emery; Ward 2, Democrat Shirleyann Ratajczak-Leaman; Ward 6, Democrat Heather Merrow.

Candidates for warden are: Ward 2, Democrat Richard Ratajczak-Leaman; Ward 4, Republican Carol C. Blier; Ward 5, Republican Herbert F. Oliver; Ward 6, Democrat Roland D. Hallee.

Amy Calder — 861-9247


Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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