Two races, highway question face voters Tuesday

Posted
Two contested races and a ballot question concerning the fate of the highway surveyor job await voters when they visit the polls next Tuesday, April 9. Three candidates are competing for two available School Committee seats: Incumbent Michelle Duarte, the current chair; Nancy Rioux, school psychologist in New Bedford; and Melissa Pacheco, corporate relations, University of Mass. Dartmouth. At last Thursday's candidates' night, all three agreed that the best long-term answer to PCB problems plaguing the middle school would be to close the school and send students instead to a new junior high school addition to Westport High School. None of the candidates was enthusiastic about a proposal to regionalize schools with neighboring Dartmouth. They pointed to uncertainty over the financial burden that would be placed on Westport and the loss of local control over education, among other concerns. Also contested are two open seats (one to fill the seat held by Majorie Sandborg who is not seeking reelection) on the Free Public Library Board of Trustees for which three candidates are running: Incumbent chairman Robert Gormley, writer Andrew Gaboury of 353 Tickle Road, and educator Sharon Hanover of 1874 Main Road. The three library candidates voiced concern over budget cuts and shortfalls that have put the library in jeopardy of losing its state accreditation. Among those issues is the fact that the library is now open 40 hours a week — less than the 50 hours stipulated by the state. The ballot question asks voters whether they wish to have the position of highway surveyor changed from elected to appointed. Earlier this winter, special town meeting voters approved by show of hands placing the question on the ballot (to do so more than two-thirds of those present had to vote yes). At that hearing, and again at the candidates' night, advocates of the change said it would bring this position in line with other town department heads who are appointed by elected members of the Board of Selectmen. Opponents argue say townspeople should resist handing over powers of this sort to town officials. Recurring controversy at the Highway Department, even before the arrest of incumbent Highway Surveyor Jack Sisson, led two studies to conclude that the post should be appointed, a change endorsed by the Board of Selectmen. Also on the Tuesday ballot are: • For Board of Selectmen "race" incumbent Chairman Richard Spirlet is the only candidate. • Steven Fors faces no competition for another term as Westport town moderator. • Incumbent Steven Medeiros is unopposed for Board of Assessors. • Incumbent Sean Leach faces no opponent for return to the Board of Health (three-year term). • Incumbent Landing Commission member Maxwell Turner is unopposed. • David Cole faces no opposition for the vacant three-year Planning Board seat that he took over after the resignation of Chairman John Montano late last year. He does, however, face a write-in challenge by Michael P. Sullivan. • Nobody filed papers for the following vacancies, likely leaving the posts open to write in efforts: — Fish commissioner — Commissioner of trust funds — Housing Authority seat — Two Planning Board seats, one for five years, the other for three years.   Polling hours, places Polls will be open in Westport Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Polling places by precinct are: • A — American Legion Hall, Sanford Road • B. Town Hall Annex, Main Road • C. Macomber School, Gifford Road • D. Briggs Road Fire Station • E. Westport High School, Main Road Questions, call the Registrar of Voters office at 636-1001.

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