February 17, 2020

Council hopefuls give views on issues

CALAIS — As the city moves into the new year, it will face several critical issues that include: property tax relief; the sale of city-owned property along the waterfront; economic development; and traffic problems caused by cross-border shopping.

The Calais City Council will take a leading role in the resolution of those issues and two candidates who will serve on that council will be elected Tuesday, Nov. 5. The NEWS asked the four candidates running for the two, two-year seats to explain their stands on the issues.

Each candidate was asked to, “Describe your plan for the future of Calais. Include a discussion of your position on: property taxes; on the sale of city-owned land along the waterfront; economic development; and the traffic problems caused by cross-border shopping.”

John V. Chambers said he had been a businessman in Calais for several years and was a family man, a Christian and a Vietnam veteran. He said he recalled when bread was 23 cents a loaf; the police department had one patrol car; and Calais’s residents did not worry about the price of gasoline or traffic problems because very few relied on automobiles.

“I am being a little nostalgic, because on my daily travels around town I feel the impact of the many changes that have taken place over the past 30 years. A stretch of North Street has matured and provided new economic strengths; large shopping malls have appeared, providing greater selections; and the feel of excitement is in the air as we look ahead,” he said.

Chambers said he cared about the city’s future, and if elected to the council, he would be mindful of both the expectations of senior citizens and the dream’s of the city’s children. “There is not a straight forward answer to the issue of property tax. I believe that there are many answers and solutions, one being to institute a local sales tax of 1 or 2 cents. This would certainly help to keep increases to a minimum,” he said.

On the issue of the sale of city-owned property, Chambers said, “It is my personal opinion that the city should not be in the real estate business. When building lots that are to be used for residential purposes are released for sale, they should be offered to the abutting property owners first at a fair market value. If they are not interested, then the property should be put out to bid. Regarding city-owned property along the water, I believe that the same rules should apply,” he said.

On the issues of economic development and traffic problems in the city, Chambers said he believed economic development was the reason Calais was growing. “We have kept an open-door policy, not only to new business, but to business expansion. On the issue of traffic problems caused by cross-border shopping, I believe if we work together we can turn the problems to profits that will benefit the entire community,” he said.

Incumbent Harold Clark, who has served on the council since 1977, said he anticipated greater economic growth in the city. “It is my feeling that in the very near future Calais will be thought of as another Freeport.” On the issue of traffic problems caused by cross-border shopping, Clark said he believed that was one of the first issues that had to be settled, but it should be done without interfering with “progressive development.”

“The greatest problem in next year’s budget is property tax because of the state and federal government shortfall. With the school subsidy being cut 10 percent on this year’s budget, and the state revenue being cut to the municipalities, it is going to be a hard fight to hold the (line) on the local property owners taxes. However, I feel it can be done,” he said.

Clark said he believed city-owned property along the water front should be held for the enjoyment of “this generation and future generations of the citizens of the city of Calais.”

The third candidate, William Pulk Jr., said he had great faith in the future of Calais. “I feel this city will be outstanding with all the expansions of old business and the beginning of new ones. This city will be a place that our children and grandchildren will have the opportunity to make a fine living; instead of moving away,” he said.

On the question of the sale of city property, Pulk said that he believed the city would benefit from the sale. “We are getting the parking space that the city desperately needs. That’s not to say I go along with the selling of all city property,” he said.

Examining the question of the city’s traffic problems, Pulk said, “I feel there should be another bridge. But I also feel it should be kept within city limits. I don’t agree that the traffic should be rerouted outside of Calais. I feel that the cross-border shopping is beneficial to our economy,” he said.

Incumbent David Fletcher, who has been on the council since April 11, 1991, said “during the past 20 years as a downtown businessman, I have observed growth and change unimagined in 1971. Calais has truly come into its own. I believe that this growth will continue and must be managed in a reasoned and responsible way to insure that our quality of life is not destroyed. To this end, I would advocate a long range, comprehensive plan for our economic development, written by the citizens of Calais, for the citizens of Calais, both present and future.”

Quoting the great Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Fletcher said that Holmes “correctly noted that taxes are what we pay for civilization. While any tax increase must be kept to a minimum, we cannot abandon essential police and fire protection, road repair or quality educational opportunity. We need to continue in a concerted effort to expand the tax base by attracting appropriate new businesses to the area.”

On the question of traffic problems in the city, Fletcher, whose law office was once downtown, said he was acutely aware of the traffic problems. “This summer we reluctantly relocated our office off Main Street because of parking and traffic congestion. This situation did not develop overnight and will not be solved overnight. A first step should be improved traffic management and rerouting, but any ultimate solution will require a cooperative effort between regional and national governments on both sides of the border,” he said.

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