BENTON — Three candidates will spar for a one-year post as road commissioner at municipal elections in April.

Incumbent Albert Giroux, who was elected to the post last year, will be faced by challengers Leroy Littlefield and Clayton Pierce.

There are also uncontested races for three-year terms on the board of selectmen and school board as well as for treasurer and town clerk. Voters will elect candidates in municipal elections on Mar. 11.

First term Selectman Antoine Morin, who was elected in 2013, did not submit nomination papers to run for another term. In an interview Monday, Morin said he no longer has time to serve on the board because he is working to complete a required state teacher recertification course. Morin is a teacher at Skowhegan Area High School.

The work has also kept Morin from attending biweekly board of selectmen meetings, although he communicates through email and is available to sign the warrants if needed. His testing commitment was the only reason he is not attending meetings, something he lamented, Morin said.

“There is nothing worse than a public servant that doesn’t have time to serve the public,” he said.

Robin Cyr, a resident who spearheaded a petition against a cellular phone tower proposed in her Benton Village neighborhood this summer, is the only candidate for the board of selectmen.

“Working on the cell tower issue made me want to get more involved working in the town,” Cyr said Monday.

The job of road commissioner has three contenders with different ideas on how Benton should be managing its road network. Benton has no highway department, and the road commissioner hires and supervises contractors to work on summer and winter road maintenance.

Albert Giroux, 67, a retired construction worker, was elected to the post last year. According to Giroux, his predecessor left maintenance problems and other issues when he left the position. In October, voters approved taking $30,000 from the town’s excise tax revenue to cover overspending in the town’s road budget because of projects Giroux took on, including an expensive culvert replacement.

At the time, Giroux said that Benton’s road infrastructure had not been maintained well and would need considerable investment from the town. In an interview Monday, he said he had requested more money for roads in 2016, but his proposal had been cut back by the budget committee.

The town needs to fund its road budget so it can keep up with necessary maintenance, he said.

“If you don’t take care of what you’ve got and keep working around, sooner or later you’ll have nothing,” he said.

To be done correctly, the road commissioner position has to be treated like a full-time job, Giroux said.

The repairs he made last year may have pushed him over budget, but Giroux said he hasn’t heard from anyone who disagreed with his action or wasn’t happy with his work.

“What I did last year was stuff that needed to be done. The thing of it is you can’t let it fall behind. If you let it get behind, you might as well give up,” he said.

“If I’m elected I’ll do my best with the money I’m given and that’s that,” he added.

Leroy Littlefield, who is challenging Giroux for commissioner, said he does not think it warrants a full-time 40-hour work week. Littlefield, 49, owns Littlefield Paving and Plowing and has been working in the paving business since 1985.

“It is not a full-time 40-hour week job as some people portray it to be,” he said in an interview Monday.

He also disputes the contention that Benton has a problem with its roads. Compared to some nearby towns, Benton’s roads are in very good condition, Littlefield said.

“The town of Benton is a small town and a small community. We have some of the best roads around,” Littlefield said. The town usually budgets enough money for roads every year and might see some savings this summer thanks to the low price of oil that could reduce asphalt costs, he said.

“What we’ve had for current budgets in the last year has been more than sufficient. It’s been fine,” Littlefield said.

Clayton Pierce, the third candidate, said that with the high cost of materials, roadwork is always going to be a major expense for taxpayers.

“We should maintain what we’ve got,” he said. “I see it is very hard for taxpayers to keep up with roadwork. It is one of the things that is killing small towns.”

Pierce, 61, has been the foreman at the highway department in neighboring Clinton and is running on his more than 20 years of experience working on local roads. Benton has a good paving program and the roads look like they are in pretty good shape, Pierce said. He does not consider the road commissioner position to be a full-time job and doesn’t think that Benton residents would be in favor of turning it into one, noting the start-up costs of a highway department would be expensive.

“Most taxpayers are not going to want to change it to a full-time position,” Pierce said.

Other uncontested races include Susan Rodrigue for a three-year term as town clerk, Rick Lawrence for a new term as tax collector, and Ronald Liberty as a town representative on the Maine School Administrative District 49 board of directors.

Voters will also decide whether to change the town clerk and treasurer positions from elective to appointive posts in a vote at Town Meeting on March 12.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

 


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