WILTON — The fate of the Forster Mill is one of the top concerns shared by the three candidates vying for the vacant seat on the Wilton Selectboard, which will be filled in a special election Tuesday.

Two of the candidates, Irving Faunce, 70, and Jeffrey Rowe, 59, have served on the board previously. The third candidate, Gerald Whitney, 60, a former Wilton Public Works employee, has run for selectman previously but has not won.

The vacancy on the board occurred when Selectboard Chairman Paul Berkey Jr. resigned from his position in October because he moved out of state. Since his resignation, the board elected Selectwoman Tiffany Maiuri to be the chairwoman.

Faunce, a Wilton resident since 2004, was elected to his first three-year term as a selectman in 2007. He was re-elected in 2011 but resigned when he accepted a job in Penobscot and was able to reside in Wilton only on weekends. Faunce has since accepted a job locally as administrator at Maplecrest Rehabilitation and Living Center in Madison.

Faunce believes his experience as a member on the board and the town’s Planning Board and currently as a member of the Finance and Budget Committee make him a viable candidate.

“I have the leadership and management experience necessary to deal with the challenges ahead,” Faunce said.

Faunce, who owns Wilton Blueberry Farm with his wife, Jan Collins, said he is concerned about rising property taxes. With state revenue sharing down, Faunce said towns are having to shift the burden onto property taxpayers.

“It’s a real challenge to think we can continue to do that,” Faunce said.

Another large issue that Faunce said the town needs to continue to try to solve is the environmental site remediation and demolition of the Forster Mill on Depot Street.

The town recently applied for $600,000 worth of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding to begin the environmental cleanup of the site.

Faunce said he would favor going to the bond market and borrowing money to help fund what could more a more than $1 million project. At the last public hearing on the Forster Mill project, Town Manager Rhonda Irish said demolition of the building alone could cost up to $900,000, not including the environmental cleanup of the site.

“It’s sitting in the middle of our town, decaying in front of our eyes,” Faunce said. “We just have to deal with it.”

The Forster Mill’s future is also a concern of Rowe. With the costs of tearing down the mill outweighing the amount of funding the town has applied for in grants, Rowe said that unfortunately, this burden might fall on the taxpayers.

“The biggest concern in town right now is the old Forster building,” Rowe said. “(The mill) needs to be torn down, and the town doesn’t have a lot of extra money to do so. The short version of that is it is still going to cost taxpayers.”

Rowe served four terms as selectman from 1993 to 2005. After his fourth term was up, Rowe didn’t run for re-election because he was ready for a “bit of a change.”

He ran this year because he wants to be a part of figuring out how to solve the current problems facing Wilton, one of which, he thinks, is the rising cost of public education.

“SAD 9 is spending big bucks,” Rowe said. “They don’t seem to know the word ‘no’ in terms of spending.”

Rowe, who has lived in Wilton since 1978, said he has seen his own children and now his grandchildren go through SAD 9, with rising costs to the taxpayers over the years.

“Taxes keep going up every year, mine included,” Rowe said. “Somehow we need to find a way to keep them from rising.”

Rowe drives a logging truck for part of his livelihood. He also owns a motorcycle repair shop that he runs out of his home. Rowe is a member of the Wilton Fire Department and the Elks Club.

While Whitney has not held an elective position in Wilton, he has lived in Wilton for 38 years and worked for the Wilton Public Works department for 30 years. He is now road foreman in Livermore.

This is Whitney’s third time running for selectman. He previously ran in 2014 and 2015.

“I just think that if you have working people on the board, maybe things would be different,” Whitney said.

Whitney is concerned about the economic viability of Wilton, especially with the town’s ownership of the Forster Mill and the lack of businesses in downtown.

“(Wilton) is going to have to do something with the mill. I don’t care if you get grants or not; it’s going to end up coming out of the working people’s pocket,” Whitney said. “It’s hard to be in Wilton. We also don’t have anything on Main Street.”

Whitney said his experience in communicating and dealing with the public makes him a good candidate to help Wilton work out those challenges.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Town Office. The elected selectman will serve a three-year term.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

 

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