CHINA — Longtime Selectwoman Irene Belanger, businessman Albert Althenn and Planning Board member Ronald Breton are competing for a pair of two-year terms on the Board of Selectmen.

The top two vote-getters will win the board seats in the three-person contest. No other contested municipal races are on the town ballot in the Nov. 3 election. Positions on the Planning Board, the Budget Committee and the Regional School Unit 18 board of directors don’t have candidates and will be filled through write-in votes.

Belanger, who has been a selectwoman for nearly 10 years, said a lot of change is happening in town and she wants to provide continuity on the board. Belanger, 75, is a former real estate agent who was the town’s longtime Planning Board chairwoman.

“I just enjoy doing it,” Belanger said. “I enjoy working for the people in my community.”

Belanger isn’t sold on a pay-as-you-throw solid waste proposal and said many residents have contacted her to say they are not in favor of the plan.

Board members voted in September to put the issue to voters in a March referendum. Pay-as-you-throw would require residents to buy special trash bags to use at the town transfer station.

Older residents are worried about how much the bags cost, even though a plan to give bag reimbursements to homestead tax break recipients has been floated by the selectmen, Belanger said. She thinks the town needs to reduce its waste, but a pay-per-bag system might not be the best way to do it.

“I’m on the fence about it, but the way it has been presented to right now, I’m not in favor of it,” Belanger said.

Althenn also opposes the pay-as-you-throw trash system proposed by selectmen. He thinks the measure will lead people to dump trash on public and private property instead of paying for the bags. Many people can’t afford to buy food for their families, let alone expensive garbage bags, he said.

“It’s a poorly thought-out way to do it,” Althenn said.

Breton also opposes pay-as-you-throw because he thinks selectmen moved the idea ahead to a referendum without considering other options or getting public feedback. He would rather give voters a number of options, from increasing taxes to paying for dump stickers, instead of an up or down vote on pay-as-you-throw.

“It’s the people’s transfer station,” Breton said. “I think they ought to be allowed to determine how it is going to be handled and how they are going to pay for it.”

Althenn, 70, said that improving the condition of China Lake is his No. 1 priority, but he has expanded his platform to other issues, such as the transfer station and town spending, so he doesn’t appear to be single-issue candidate. A businessman and property owner, Althenn has run unsuccessfully for a seat on the board for the last three years.

“I’ve been out there a long time. I know what I stand for. I don’t open my mouth until I’ve done my research and know what I’m talking about,” Althenn said.

China Lake is the main economic engine of the town, Althenn said, and the selectmen and state officials have not dealt with its problems. He opposes state rules that require the lake level to be drawn down between mid-November and when the ice sets in. Although the measure reduces flooding and ice damage, it drains surrounding wetlands and hurts the lake ecosystem, Althenn said.

He also opposes introducing the return of migrating alewives to China Lake. While supporters of the plan say it can balance the ecosystem and help clear up lake water, Althenn is concerned about unintended consequences.

“Every lake is different,” and China Lake hasn’t had an alewife run for generations, Althenn said. “We don’t know what the side effects of all those fish will be,” he added.

Breton, 66, is a retired master sergeant in the National Guard and worked as chief of supply at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for 36 years. He has been on the Planning Board for the last eight years and was chairman for six years. Breton ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Board of Selectmen in 2014.

“I have no special interest; I just want to help voters as much as I can,” Breton said.

Many voters he has talked to have said they are concerned about town spending, and as a selectman he would like to focus on the budget, Breton said. He pointed to the purchase of a $15,000 retractable awning over the recycling area at the transfer station as an example of unnecessary spending.

“I think that’s a nice thing, but if the town is complaining about taxes, that’s not a good thing to spend tax dollars on,” Breton said.

Belanger, though, dismissed the idea that selectmen were spending unnecessarily. On the contrary, she said that thanks to Town Manager Dan L’Heureux, the board has kept costs down.

“If there is any way we can save money, we do it and we do it hopefully in a manner that does not cut benefits to our residents,” Belanger said. “I can’t think of anything frivolous that we’ve done.”

Unlike Althenn, Breton is in favor of removing the dams in Vassalboro and reintroducing alewives. He said the selectmen should financially assist environmental associations working on China Lake and the Alewife Restoration Initiative.

Belanger said she is also a “firm believer” in the alewife restoration program in China Lake. Even though there are people in town who are “very much against” bringing the river herring back into the lake, Belanger said the program has a chance to improve water quality.

Other candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot are James Wilkens, for Planning Board District 1; Robert Batteese, for Planning Board Chairman; and Kevin Maroon, for Budget Committee District 1. There are no candidates for District 3 seat on the Planning Board and the Budget Committee, as well as an RSU 18 Board seat; but Milton Dudley, Sheryl Peavey and Charles Clark are expected to run as write-in candidates, according to the town clerk’s office.

This story was corrected to clarify Albert Althenn’s position on China Lake health.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


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