The first issue the four candidates vying for two seats on the Whitman Board of Selectmen board faced Wednesday in a political forum, was the decision by current selectmen to put a question asking for a $500,000 operational override on next month’s town election ballot.
Incumbent Carl Kowalski says the decision was somewhat easy to make after what they received a recommendation from what he calls a conservative finance committee.
“We have over a million dollars in free cash, we have over 2 million in the stabilization dollars, and another 1.3 million capital stabilization, so we have been putting our money away. But now we are at a point where, if we want to continue to provide the services in town that we’d like to, we have to ask for an operational override,” said Kowalski.
Kowalski also noted that the town rarely spends to the levy limit.
Candidate Scott Lambiase, who wasn’t a part of the process, said he’s been speaking with senior citizens, and believes it will affect them the most. He said it’s unfortunate that it’s come to this.
“What I’d like to know, and I think what’s more important is, what if the plan if it doesn’t pass? Because are we talking layoffs, are we talking hiring? We have a hiring freeze now, will there not be new hires? How is it going to effect the town? And I think its real important that we let them know that,” said Lambiase.
Incumbent Christine Walker said she think it’s important to go to town meeting to get a better sense of the issue, and then vote.
“The number of calls made by the fire department these days, manning three ambulances, when surrounding towns have one, might be critical to seniors, in terms of response time. That’s a service I don’t know we want sacrifice,” said Walker.
“There’s issues regarding busing–not having children being injured walking to school crossing Route 18. There’s a number of daily every day, quality of life issues tied up in this override.”
Candidate Lisa Green said if the override does not pass, she has learned from Town Administrator Frank Lynam there could be between 5 and 8 positions on the chopping block.
“If we lose those 8 people the citizens of Whitman would have to get used to that–not having those services right at their fingertips. The way our streets are plowed in the winter time–I think the DPW did a fantastic job. But if we lose those positions, that’s going to suffer come next winter. So, I think its important for the people of Whitman to realize and think about that when they are voting yes or no on that ballot,” said Green.
The forum was taped, to air over the next month, on Community Access Television in Whitman and in Hanson. Town election is on May 21st; polls will be open from 9 to 5 at Whitman Town Hall on South Avenue.