MONMOUTH — A pair of contested races for three positions on the Monmouth Select Board top the ballot for next week’s Town Meeting.

Voters will act on 27 articles at Monmouth Academy during a secret ballot-only meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.on Tuesday, July 14.

Three candidates are vying for two three-year terms on the board. They are longtime incumbent C. Douglas Ludewig, Kristin Sanborn and Donna Seppy.

C. Douglas Ludewig

Ludewig, 80, who has served on the Select Board since 2001, said the town has done “a considerable number of things” during his time on the board, including roadwork projects and construction of the new Monmouth Memorial School.

If reelected, Ludewig said much of his focus would be on finding a new use for Monmouth Middle School and Henry L. Cottrell School. 

“We have the two schools we have to decide what to do with,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to find somebody that will be interested in doing something with them.”

Ludewig cited his experience on the Select Board and on numerous committees, including the committee to form Regional School Unit 2 and the committee seeking to leave the same school district, as reasons for residents to vote for him.

“I think it’s good to have someone with experience on the board,” he said.

Kristin Sanborn

Kristin Sanborn, co-owner of Hayes Maine, dental supply and training company, is also seeking a seat on the Select Board.

She said she has served on other town boards, including the trustee boards for Cumston Hall and the Cumston Hall Public Library.

Sanborn, 52, said as a small-business owner, she would be an asset to the Select Board during tough economic times brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which could be worsened by a lack of state funding to municipalities.

“We’re going to have to look really closely at our budgets in the future,” she said. “I know what it’s like to work within your means. If you don’t have the dollars, you can’t spend them.”

Sanborn, a lifelong Mainer, said people should vote for her because she seeks to maintain Monmouth as a “vibrant, pleasant” community by bringing sustainable small businesses to downtown.

“I’ve got a lot of experience outside of the town,” Sanborn said, “and I know where we’ve been in our little town.

“You can’t come up with huge plans and think the town can sustain them. You have to have an idea of what the town is capable of doing and match (that) with the future.”

Donna Seppy

Donna Seppy, 53, director of student success initiatives for the University of Maine System, is running for Select Board for a third time after two unsuccessful bids in the past two elections.

Seppy described herself as “a pretty-active community member” who has lived in Monmouth for five years.

“I’ve been attending the Select Board meeting for the last ​412 years,” she said. “I’m a really well-informed citizen.”

Seppy said she would like to see more transparency in local government, and a Select Board that is more representative of the town.

“They’re all older residents,” she said, “and to my recollection, none of them have young children in the school district.”

Seppy said numerous town committees host meetings but never publish minutes in ways that reach residents. She said she would push for those committees to publish agendas before their meetings and reports and minutes after.

Seppy said the COVID-19 pandemic has increased attendance of Select Board meetings, which have been moved online and are more available to residents. She said there have been talks at the Select Board level to keep online meetings going after the pandemic, which she said she supports.

“These days, unfortunately, not all of our residents have Facebook or access to electronics, but we could reach far more,” she said. “I think that’s something we can push forward.”

Seppy is also running a write-in campaign for the RSU 2 board of directors seat. She is not able to hold both positions, but should she win a Select Board seat, she said she would serve on that board.

Another two-person race will fill a one-year term on the Select Board, with voters choosing between Emily DuFour and Michael Minkowsky.

Emily DuFour

DuFour, owner of the Monmouth’s Four Pence Gallery, is running for the first time for an elected position.

If elected, she said she would work to “open up communication” between the Select Board and its constituents. She said she would seek changes, including pushing back meeting times, holding meetings online and publishing minutes and agendas online.

“One of the biggest complaints from younger constituents is that it’s difficult to get to meetings,” she said, adding that meetings typically begin at 6 p.m. “If you’re a working parents, that’s dinner time.”

DuFour, 38, said there is a sense of “us versus them” between generational residents and those who are newer to the community. She said the average town resident is 38 years old and women comprise the majority of those residents, yet younger voters and women are not represented on the Select Board, whose members are all older than 55.

“They’re trying to preserve the history of Monmouth, but we can make adjustments,” she said. “The newcomers are just as invested in our future as the generations.”

DuFour said residents should vote for her because she is “the future of the town.”

“I’m a young, working mom (and an) owner of a small business,” she said. “I am invested in being here until and after retirement.”

Mike Minkowsky

Minkowsky, 57, the former Gardiner fire chief, said he is running to use use his management skills and experience to give back to a community that has been supportive of him.

Minkowsky said the potential repurposing of Monmouth Middle School is a high priority for the town. He said a proposed community center might not be the best use of the large property, especially because of the many codes the building would have to meet.

“I’m not opposed to looking at a community building,” he said. “I just don’t think the 67,000-square-foot hulk they want to put it in is the right choice for us.”

Minkowsky also said he would prioritize long-term planning for capital expenditures, especially as revenues could be short during the coronavirus pandemic.

Minkowsky said this is his first time running for an elected position.

Philip Gauthier and Paul Ruopp Jr. are also running unopposed for two of three positions on the Monmouth Sanitary District board of trustees.

No candidates have returned papers for the Cumston Library board of trustees, Cumston Hall trustee or RSU 2 board of directors positions on the ballot.

 

BUDGET ON BALLOT

Voters will also act on a spending plan that could total $3,437,925, if all articles are accepted as written.

A draft budget proposes the town spend $3,363,125, a 1.5% increase over current spending.

Town Manager Linda Cohen said the proposal does not include some items from the warrant because they have not been confirmed.

A majority of the budget lines show slight increases, but those are balanced by cuts to other expenditures.

The largest proposed spending increase is for the transfer station, whose budgets would grow 30.5%, from $261,500 to $341,000. Cohen said the increase is related to an increase in tipping fees — fees paid to dispose of waste — from EcoMaine.

Another proposed increase for a number of town departments is related to the “27th payroll,” a phenomenon where there are 27 two-week pay periods in the year instead of the usual 26.

The large increase related to salaries would be offset by large reductions in spending on roads and capital improvements, which made up much of the $240,000 in cuts that were made due to an anticipated lack of state revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The combined roads budget, which totaled $745,250 last budget year, was reduced by about 12.4%, to $653,037, after the town cut “a huge chunk of paving” from the plans, according to Cohen.

The capital improvement budget was reduced 68%, from $122,500 to $38,947. Cohen said a police cruiser and a fire truck were cut.

Town officials are expecting $1,210,865 in municipal revenue, which includes $75,000 in unappropriated surplus from the previous budget year.

Voters will also decide on an article to spend $75,000 for maintenance on the vacant Monmouth Middle and Henry L. Cottrell schools.

Amendments to the Site Development Ordinance, which adds a specific section for commercial solar development projects, are also on the warrant.


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