WINSLOW — Longtime Winslow Town Councilor and former state legislator Ken Fletcher will not pursue reelection this year, leaving three candidates to compete for his seat and one other on the council in the town’s only contested race this year.

William Sadulsky, Lee Trahan and incumbent Jeffrey West will vie for the two at-large seats on the council, which can be voted on by members of all of Winslow’s five districts. The incoming officials will tackle a number of issues upon their induction onto the council, including whether to begin a town-run ambulance service, how to finance the repair of three fire trucks that have maintenance issues and who to hire as town manager once Mike Heavener resigns in June after 20 years with the town in various roles.

Ken Fletcher Kennebec Journal file photo by Andy Molloy

Fletcher, 73, said he is vacating his at-large seat so he can have more flexibility to travel south for the winters with his wife. After nine years on the local governing board, he predicted that the financial management skills he imparted to the town and its departments during budget season will be his strongest legacy. Fletcher also served for eight years as a state representative and was the director of former Gov. Paul LePage’s energy office for two years.

“I think that we’ve become a little more conscious of the budget and the budgeting process itself,” Fletcher reflected, regarding his tenure on the town council. “When I came in and started to really look at it, I found that when we did the revaluation back in 2008, there was a little bit of an imbalance in that our property taxes didn’t decrease as much as our valuation and we were building surplus (funds) as a result. On top of that, the budget process tended to underestimate revenues and over-expect expenses. We were gaining $400,000-$500,000 a year. That in turn was overtaxing people, in my view, because we were collecting more money than actually needed.”

Fletcher’s outspokenness on town finances and copious cost-benefit analyses at times drew ire and annoyance, but he said he felt it was his duty to speak up as a representative of the town’s taxpayers.

“Something I tried to focus on was really doing analysis so if (the council) needed to make a decision or take action, I tried to get enough research and details so we were (looking at) the upsides and downsides,” Fletcher said. “Hopefully, that’s what I brought to the council. I spent a lot of time on it, and I always tried to communicate (although) some people probably felt I was sending a little too much information out.”

Fletcher said that he feels he is leaving office on good terms with school leaders. He pressed the Winslow school district in February after the construction manager and architect it hired for an $8.1 million renovation plan announced that the plan would cost $3 million more than the budgeted amount. The school project is being completed under-budget after the district altered some of its plans and construction bids came in low.

“I think that (the Town Council and the School Board) have reached a new understanding,” Fletcher said. “I think that we have developed a mutual expectation around the budget process, enhanced communications to make sure we’re communicating effectively. Those are big improvements. And I’ve hopefully been able to explain that just because you ask questions, doesn’t mean you’re not in favor.”

Winslow voters stand in line to cast ballots at the Winslow VFW on Nov. 6, 2018. Morning Sentinel file photo

Still, Fletcher told the Morning Sentinel, “It’s time for new leadership.”

Sadulsky, 72, a retiree who spent his career at Scott Paper Co., said he is running for his first-ever public office this year “because our taxes are too high.” He was defeated by Fletcher and West in the 2016 election for at-large council seats. Sadulsky is on a town committee evaluating the need for a municipal ambulance service, a topic he said he would not voice his opinion on until cost estimates come in. Sadulsky noted that the town’s three fire trucks that are due for repair are in “bad need of service, and we’ve got to handle that.”

As far as what Sadulsky hopes to accomplish if elected, he said, “I hope that I’ll have one vote on the council and a lot of these items that are coming up for vote, I can vote against it.”

He voiced disapproval of the town’s purchase of a $400,000 camera-equipped inspection truck last year that the Sewer Department bought to help scope out the town’s sewer line. He also criticized the council’s vote to raise the sewer rate from $3 to $4.50 per 100 cubic feet, which became effective in July. 

“They said at that time that upping the sewer rate would be in case we had a breakdown,” Sadulsky said. “The first thing they did was build a winter storage facility for the (inspection truck), which cost $150,000, and they took that money out of the sewer account.”

Heavener confirmed that money from the rate increase helped cover the cost of building the storage facility.

“The sewer rate money is intended to cover both sewer capital and sewer operating expenses,” the town manager said.

Sadulsky also sits on the school building committee. He declined to provide a photograph of himself or allow a Morning Sentinel photographer to take one of him, which is a standard request for people running for public office.

“When it comes time, if I am elected, then they can put my picture on the (town) website,” Sadulsky said. “I really don’t want my picture in the paper.”

Lee Trahan Courtesy of Lee Trahan

Trahan, 48,  said his priority if elected is “making sure that the town continues in a great direction.” He is the owner of Quadra-Cad Designs, a company that offers architectural drafting and design services. He has also represented Winslow on the Vassalboro Sanitary District Board of Trustees since 2006.

“My main concern is making sure that emergency response departments are adequately funded, that no cuts go to them or to the school,” Trahan said. “I do know that after speaking with a lot of people over the last three years, I’ve talked to countless people that say they specifically moved to Winslow because of the education. More people moving to Winslow makes more residents and more tax dollars (to be collected), so (the tax rate) is not so much of a burden on every individual homeowner.

“Over the last 10-plus years, I feel like the council was more concerned about keeping taxes neutral and not raising them over the needs of the town,” Trahan added.

He said that after speaking with Winslow fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez, he would likely vote in favor of adding a municipal ambulance service because it would add revenue for the town and provide an important service. He said he would not commit to a position without reviewing the costs on paper, which Rodriguez has not yet provided.

“(Rodriguez) explained to me that when 911 is called, the Winslow rescue service is dispatched to the residence, the rescue and fire teams triage, stabilize and do 90%-95% of work taking care of the patient, then hand it off to Delta Ambulance Transportation Service,” Trahan said. “Delta transports the patient to the hospital, Delta collects the fee and Winslow gets completely left out of the loop. The numbers he gave me are that Winslow gets 900 rescue calls a year, and that’s a lot of calls.”

Jeff West Courtesy of Jeff West

Trahan, who was on the Winslow School Board from 2016-2017, vacated that role to run for town council  in 2017 against Jerry Quirion. That race was one of the town’s closest races in history — and what is believed to be the first municipal election decided by the state’s supreme judicial court. The vote came to 173-173, including one disputed ballot that had been counted for Trahan and that the court ultimately ruled must be tossed out because the voter’s intent was unclear. Quirion won the seat.

Incumbent at-large councilor Jeffrey West, 48, has been a councilor for one term. He said he hopes to extend his tenure because he “think(s) we’re starting to make headway in the town, and I’d like to continue seeing it through and seeing what differences we can make, and improvements.

“I want to keep our services in town — all the services we can, anyway, and do as minimal of a tax increase as possible,” he added, noting that he has not made a decision about adding a municipal ambulance service because he “hasn’t seen the numbers we need to make an educated decision on that.”

A maintenance technician for Spectrum, West formerly worked for Delta Ambulance as an emergency medical technician and at the Winslow Fire Department as a lieutenant.

 

UPDATING TOWN CHARTER

Winslow residents will see 10 ballot questions involving revisions to the town’s charter at the polls this year. Heavener said the questions are the result of a town policy mandating that every five years, the town reviews its charter to make sure it is consistent with current laws.

Seven propose grammatical changes or the deletion of unnecessary language but will not change anything about how the town operates. Those are: Questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9.

Question 6 asks voters whether they approve of requiring the town manager to submit a budget proposal 150 days before the start of the fiscal year as opposed to the current 120 days before the start of the fiscal year.

“The intent is just to give the council a little more time to work on the budget,” said Heavener, who said the earlier deadline would not be a problem for him to meet. “Last year, we did it that way and it worked fine, so the council decided to amend the charter (to reflect that).”

Question 7 proposes updating the charter to reflect the current state law that requires the school district’s annual budget to be subject to approval via referendum after it passes in the town council.

Question 10 asks voters to consider prohibiting local candidates or town employees from using public funds to lobby or aid their campaigns or to promote or oppose a ballot question. Heavener said that no candidate for a Winslow office has used public funds for those purposes before that he or the council is aware of, but that the language to that effect was never specifically included in the charter.

“I think the council just wants to make it clear,” Heavener said.

 

SCHOOL BOARD SHUFFLE; UNCONTESTED RACES

Incumbent District 2 School Board member John Ferry is running for the at-large seat currently held by Earl Coombs. Coombs, who has sat on the board for 15 years and served as its assistant chair for the last two years, said he is not running for reelection.

“It’s been a privilege to serve on the board, and it has been a very good group to work with,” Coombs said. “In some respects I’m sorry not to be running because I’ve enjoyed the experience, but I felt it was time to give somebody else the opportunity.”

Earl Watts, a military veteran and educator who ran for last year’s District 2 Town Council seat, is seeking the seat Ferry will vacate. No candidate has announced a run for the third open school board seat this year, representing District 4. Randi Clatchey currently has the role, which she has held since 2016. Clatchey said she is not running again because her daughter graduated from Winslow High School this year and she hopes someone who has children in the school district will fill her seat.

In other uncontested races, Karen Andrus and Wanda Terp, incumbent library trustees, are running for reelection to the six-person board in November. Incumbent Karl Dornish has renewed his interest in being a Kennebec Water District Trustee for another term.

All elected positions in Winslow last for three years.

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