FAIRFIELD — A three-way Town Council election race pits two incumbents against a former councilman for two open seats on the five-member council.

Incumbents John Picchiotti and Michael Taylor are running for new three-year terms on the council, and former Councilor Harold “Jim” Murray is trying to get back on the town’s governing body. All three candidates said that maintaining low taxes and encouraging economic development were important issues for the town.

The council race is the only contested election in Fairfield this year.

Picchiotti, 72, is a retired businessman who represents Fairfield, Mercer and Smithfield as a Republican in the Maine House of Representatives. He was elected to the council in 2012.

In a recent interview, Picchiotti said the council should keep an eye on spending and try to keep taxes low. Picchiotti said he wants to lower the tax rate by making sure town departments are running efficiently. The council keeps costs in line, but taxes go up because of spending from School Administrative District 49 or Somerset County, Picchiotti said.

“I hate to see people moving because they can’t afford the taxes. It’s crazy,” he said. Turning to economic development, Picchiotti said Main Street in Fairfield gets a “tremendous amount” of vehicle traffic every day, but the town needs to attract new businesses to exploit that potential.

The council also should continue developing land along the Kennebec River, including building a footbridge from downtown to Mill Island Park, he said.

“It they did it in Eastport, we can do it here,” he said, referring revitalization efforts in that Down East city.

Murray, 57, said that for the four years he was on the council, from 2011 to 2014, the tax rate didn’t increase.

The municipal budget the council put forward for 2015-16 included a 2 percent tax increase after five years of a flat tax rate. Voters approved the budget in May at Town Meeting.

“If you want your taxes to go up, don’t vote for Harold Murray. If you want your taxes to go down, vote for Harold Murray,” he said.

Murray was elected to a three-year term on the council in 2010, but he finished in last place in his 2013 re-election bid. He was appointed to a one-year term after a councilor resigned in 2014 but lost another re-election bid that year, coming in last place in a four-person race.

“I’m running because I want to serve my community like I have before, in the past,” Murray said.

Murray worked at the Scott Paper mill in Skowhegan for about 15 years and is now an independent contractor. He lives in Shawmut on Somerset Avenue with his son and his daughter.

He touted the work done while he was on the council, including the restoration of the Gerald Hotel and construction of the Family Dollar store.

Murray said the council could keep municipal costs down, but he would like the council to challenge publicly or approve the SAD 49 budget. Council pressure could make residents vote in opposition to a proposed budget even if the council can’t affect it directly, Murray said. The council should look at tax incentives and marketing Fairfield, possibly with low-cost advertisements, to attract new business, he said. He’d like to have an in-house economic development staff member but doesn’t think the town can afford it.

Murray was issued a court summons on Oct. 19 after he was stopped by police on High Street and charged with speeding 30 mph over the limit. In an interview Friday, Murray said he was coming home after working as an umpire at several baseball games and wasn’t paying attention to how fast he was going. The speed limit in the area is 25 mph, so he must have been going at least 55 mph, he said.

“To be honest with you, I was probably doing a little faster than that. I just wasn’t watching my speed,” he said. It was the first speeding ticket he’s gotten in probably the last 30 years, Murray added.

His speeding charge shouldn’t have any bearing on the election, but people will have to make up their own minds, Murray said.

Michael Taylor, 48, a manager at Houle’s Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in Waterville, is seeking a second full term on the council.

Before his election to the council in 2012, he hadn’t been involved in town politics, and his first term was a learning experience, Taylor said.

“I did not go in with any preconceived notions of anything I wanted to do,” Taylor said. “I wanted to be a contributing member of society and do my civic duty.”

“I’ve been taking a common-sense approach as to what is in the best interest of the town of Fairfield, and I don’t think you can go wrong with that approach,” Taylor said.

The council has worked hard and used due diligence to keep property taxes from going up, and he hopes to continue that trend, Taylor said.

“We need to be very, very focused on what is necessary for the town and stick with that,” he said.

As far as the school budget is concerned, the council can voice its opposition to increased costs, but it doesn’t change anything, he added.

To encourage economic development, the council should work with the Central Maine Growth Council to find companies that would be a good fit for Fairfield, and it should continue the downtown and riverfront revitalization, Taylor said.

Other candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot are Terry Michaud and Timothy Martin for three-year terms on the SAD 49 school board and Shawn Knox for a one-year term on the school board. Martin is also the only candidate on the ballot for the town’s proposed charter commission. Voters also will decide in a referendum whether to establish the charter commission.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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