Candidates face off in race for town administrator

Candidates face off in race for town administrator

Guertin, Hamilton debate local issues at Valley Breeze offices

NORTH SMITHFIELD - Incumbent Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton and challenger Anthony Guertin went head to head on everything from the upcoming bond referendum to employment practices at Town Hall during a recent debate at The Valley Breeze offices.

During the tense one hour event, the candidates retold stories from a contentious year in town politics, explaining issues such as school funding and abatements, each from an unique perspective.

"Since 2011, if you look at each increase given to the School Department - not necessarily only through a local appropriation - you're looking at over a 16 percent increase," said Hamilton in response to a question regarding district funding. "It's ill-conceived to me to have the School Department consistently state that they are underfunded when we have a similar per pupil spending to Scituate and Barrington. Those are very well-performing school systems."

Guertin, who serves as vice president of the North Smithfield Athletic Association, was a vocal proponent of allocating additional money to the district to address the reported deficit last year. He disputed the idea that North Smithfield schools have received adequate funding.

"I know that ... one year you gave four dollars. Those costs go up," he said to Hamilton. "I'm not for more taxes. I'm for spending our money better. I was looking at reallocation and it fell on deaf ears. When you want to talk to more adequate funding that's what you speak to: not higher taxes, but better spending of our tax dollars."

Asked how he would work to maintain the town's fiscal stability through potentially difficult times ahead, Guertin replied: "My concern primarily right now is where we are. We don't even have a baseline. We have a potential deficit of $250,000."

"We are facing some difficult financial times coming up. We need to work hard to protect the residents from what will be the impact on the residential tax base," he said, adding that he will work to sell the town to potential investors and to build the business community.

Hamilton addressed recent issues in the tax assessor's office, where more than $700,000 in reported abatements left the town with a deficit for fiscal year 2014.

"What happened in the tax assessor's office was an aberration," Hamilton said. "That person was immediately dealt with and put on administrative leave. We've put into place some policies and procedures that were obviously lax over the past seven or eight years. I can guarantee there won't be a supplemental bill."

Asked how they plan to get parties to work together and cooperate for the benefit of taxpayers, the two had opposing perspectives on the town's recent past.

"There have been many attempts to get all facets of the community to work together," said Hamilton. "My opponent has been instrumental in getting the individuals who are interested in sports very much involved in a process that in my estimation was counterproductive - getting people to call each other names, having groups of individuals and young people being very uncivil to each other. I don't think the town in general likes to see that. I believe we should put that to rest and to put our differences aside."

Guertin replied "I think the process she talked about where I 'tried to get people to promote negativity'? I think that process is called Democracy. I think people are entitled to their own opinions."

"I've been working with people for a long time," he added. "I have worked collaboratively with multiple groups."

Asked if he supports the three bonds before voters on the ballot Nov. 4, Guertin said that while he supports the idea of repairs to the town's roadways, "as far as the school facilities bond, there are still unanswered questions. I need to know if we are entitled to the reimbursement before we go to the polls. Also, What happens if the school bond does fail, and the town improvements bond passes? We're supposed to redo Kendall Dean to house town offices. What if the school says 'hey, we need the space. We need to utilize it.'?"

Hamilton responded "There is no Plan B. I can tell you that that was something that - with the School Department and School Committee sitting right next to me - none of us went to Plan B. We believe this is the best thing for the town and we believe it will pass."

To view the complete debate visit valleybreeze.com .

Comments

I think North Smithfield has had enough of poor oversight, weak communication skills with other departments, lack of accountability and inadequate planning ("No Plan B"?) from their Town Administrator. Time for change. Time for Tony Guertin.

Go, Paulette!!! Ra-Ra-Ra!