Winslow voters will choose two town councilors and decide on a multimillion-dollar bond to finance the school consolidation project at the polls Nov. 7.

Two people are vying for each of two open seats for three-year terms on the Town Council. Most of the four men running — Jerry Quirion and Lee Trahan in District 3 and Steve Russell in District 5 — are focused on taxes or schools.

Residents will also decide whether the town should take out a $10.33 million bond for renovations and construction related to the school consolidation project, which involves closing the junior high and sending the lowest grade to the elementary school and the two higher grades to the high school.

The polls at the VFW hall on 175 Veterans Drive will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Election Day, Nov. 7. Absentee voting is available now from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Town Office at 114 Benton Ave.

DISTRICT 3

Jerry Quirion

Incumbent Jerry Quirion, 71, faces school board member Lee Trahan, 46, for his seat on the Town Council.

Quirion, who has served on the council for six years, worked at the Maine Department of Transportation for 46 years before retiring as a senior engineering technician. He was a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve for 38 years and was on active duty for two years. Quirion holds associate and bachelor’s degrees in fire science technology, civil engineering and industrial technology from Maine colleges.

He’s running again to serve the people in his community, he said, and ensure they get the “best representation possible.”

Trahan has been a member of the Vassalboro Sanitary District Board since 2006 and won a seat on the school board in 2015. He works part-time as a substitute teacher for Waterville schools.

Trahan has two associate degrees: one in mechanical drafting and design from Central Maine Community College and another in marketing and business management from Kennebec Valley Community College.

For Quirion, taxes are the biggest issue facing the council.

“We can’t just keep going, and, all of a sudden, we’ve got a mill rate of $23, $24,” he said, referring to the amount per $1,000 of value taxpayers pay on their properties. “It doesn’t mean it won’t increase, but we should do everything we can to mitigate it. … I think it should be the most important issue to everyone on the council.”

Quirion, who has spent his whole life in Winslow, said he visits the Legislature in Augusta and speaks at public hearings about revenue sharing and its importance to the town, adding that residents also need to go and testify.

“I testified shooting off my hip, and they like that more than a paid lobbyist,” he said. “We can’t keep going to the property tax. Property tax is a very regressive tax.”

As the state has shared less revenue with local towns, property taxes have had to increase, he said, which hurts those on low or fixed incomes. It also discourages people from improving their homes.

A progressive tax would be a sales tax, Quirion said, as people could make individual decisions on whether to buy items, knowing the tax rate.

The consolidation of students from Winslow’s three schools into two buildings needing renovation could affect the town’s taxes. Winslow Junior High School is set to close by 2019. The current plan is to move sixth-graders to the elementary school and seventh- and eighth-graders to the high school, if residents approve a $10.33 million construction bond.

In the Town Council vote, Quirion voted against the school bond — which ultimately passed by one vote — because of the inclusion of a performing arts center that he thinks isn’t necessary. If the bond fails in the referendum, he said, he’d expect the council to survey residents about what they want.

Quirion wants the town to be “innovative” and look outside the box to find solutions to the problem, which he did in his work at the Department of Transportation, he said, where he found a way to keep a communications system in place while reconstructing a bridge.

Lee Trahan

Trahan, who also grew up in Winslow, said he was raised to take pride in his community.

In running for the council, he said, “I just wanted to give back to the community.”

Trahan doesn’t want to raise taxes significantly, but he does want to ensure that the quality of Winslow schools is maintained.

As a school board member, he said, he sees that everything in the school budget is “gone over with a fine-tooth comb.” The schools keep spending low, he said, without putting services at risk; but after this year’s cuts and the unpredictability of state funding, more needs to be done to protect the schools.

“I honestly feel that education really needs more funding,” he said. “(…) We’re going to lose these quality-educated educators to other communities, and even other states, if we don’t keep up with the pay raises that the teachers deserve.”

Trahan said he’s disabled and on a fixed income himself, but he’s willing to increase taxes for himself if it will help the schools.

“No, I don’t want to raise taxes. But I also want to make sure students in the school system are getting the best education they possibly can,” he said. “If we have to raise taxes a little to assure that we keep that in proper check, then yes, I feel that we have to. I foremost want to look out for the community as a whole.”

Keeping taxes flat for so many years may have hurt the town more than it helped it, Trahan said. While it was good to control spending, it also leaves the community facing a potentially large increase when it’s called for.

“When you want to anticipate for unexpected increases that may happen, you’re better off to do little increases at a time than to do a lot of it at a time,” he said.

Trahan wants to make sure that the Police and Fire departments are funded properly and don’t suffer cuts in the coming years. He also spoke about addressing infrastructure, which is a major issue in Winslow right now.

He was “pleasantly surprised” to see forward motion on recycling, he said, and would like to encourage more programs for that.

DISTRICT 5

Steve Russell

Longtime Councilor and current Chairman Steve Russell, 59, faces newcomer William Sadulsky, 70, for a three-year seat.

Russell has served on the council for more than two decades. He is the recently retired owner of Pine Hill Jerseys Farm, an organic dairy farm in Winslow. He was also a 15-year member of an advisory council for the Organic Valley co-op, where he made policy recommendations for the executive dairy council. Russell went to Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois, to study education, but returned to Winslow to work on the family farm.

Sadulsky, a retired Scott Paper Co. worker of 35 years, is a member of the town’s junior high building committee, which is exploring options of what to do with the building once it’s no longer in use. He ran for an at-large seat on the council last year but lost to incumbent Ken Fletcher and newcomer Jeff West.

Russell hopes to continue working on some of the projects that have been started in recent years, such as the school bond issue and what to do with Winslow’s trash.

While keeping taxes low is a priority for him, Russell doesn’t want to take services away from residents.

“We always try to do a balancing act of trying to provide service people want while still keeping the (tax) rate in check,” he said. For example, Russell said that while one-third of residents are retired and on fixed incomes, they appreciated the Kennebec Explorer service from the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, which provides rides for people to Waterville and other areas at a low cost.

Unfortunately, he said, one of the biggest challenges facing the town is “what goes on in Augusta.”

The town went seven years without a tax increase, dipping into reserve money to make up for education increases.

This past year’s tax increase, Russell said, “wouldn’t have happened if we had revenue sharing,” which has been cut down from its usual 5 percent in recent years.

“The only thing you can do is have people pay as much attention to state politics as they do local,” he said. The Town Council also held a meeting in February with five Augusta officials to talk about revenue sharing, and they told the officials that property taxes would go up if revenue sharing didn’t increase.

On the upcoming school bond, Russell said it’s again a balance, as people will “shop” for a town to settle down in based on its schools and its tax rate.

“I’m glad the seven of us are not making this decision,” he said, adding that he hopes the will of the people is clear in the vote so they have an obvious mandate going forward.

Personally, he was disappointed in the high cost, but understands the need to provide opportunities for students to become well-rounded, which includes spaces for theater and band.

Russell is also on the town’s agricultural commission, which has established a Voluntary Municipal Farm Support Program. As that is finalized, he hopes to pursue other issues with the commission, such as potential uses for the town’s forest or a farmers market in Winslow.

Sadulsky, who regularly attends Town Council meetings, declined to provide a photo of himself or let a Morning Sentinel photographer take a photo for the story. He also declined to give a full interview.

He is running to represent the people of the fifth district, he said. “I don’t feel that they’re getting represented right now.”

Winslow voters will get an opportunity to learn more about the proposed school consolidation that would empty the junior high school, seen here; and move its students to the elementary and high schools, which would undergo changes to accommodate them. Staff file photo by David Leaming

SCHOOL BOND

Voters will decide whether to move forward with a $10.33 million school bond that would finance expansion of the high school and renovation of the elementary school to make room for junior high students once the Winslow Junior High School is closed in 2019.

Multiple committees have studied whether to close the school, where to move the students and what renovations are necessary for a two-school system. The junior high school building, built in 1928, is considered hazardous and inefficient.

Stephen Blatt, who runs Stephen Blatt Architects in Portland, designed the renovations of the schools, which include an additional 20,000 square feet to the end of the high school for classrooms and support areas specifically for seventh- and eighth-graders. The addition also would have its own entrance.

The elementary school would be renovated to keep younger and older children separate as well, and the parking lot would be reconfigured to include additional spaces.

Blatt included a new space for the front office in the bond costs, which he said would improve safety at the school.

The new construction would include a performing arts center that could seat 600 people and a renovated space for chorus, band and stage design areas, which Blatt has said is designed to be “a teaching facility.” The total cost is just under $3 million.

The bond also includes $650,000 for possible demolition costs if the town doesn’t find another use for the junior high property.

If the bond passes and the town pays the debt over 20 years at 3 percent interest, the average annual debt payment would be about $687,000, according to Councilor Ken Fletcher. Barring any other changes, this would increase the tax rate by $1.08 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. In previous interviews, Fletcher has said this would increase the average Winslow household’s tax bill by $148.

At the same time, the consolidation should save the school system nearly $250,000 annually.

The Town Council approved the bond in August by a 4-3 vote, with Councilors Russell, Raymond Caron, Jeffrey West and Patricia West for and Councilors Fletcher, Ben Twitchell and Jerry Quirion opposed. Councilors on both sides have said they hope for a large voter turnout and a clear mandate on what direction the town wants to head in.

If the bond fails at the ballot, the town and school committees would have to come up with another plan for the schools and possibly extend how long students remain in the junior high building, which has been described as a “ticking time bomb.”

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour