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Selectmen Candidates Clash Over Stormwater Fees, Social Media And More At Spirited Debate

Apr 25, 2019 04:08PM ● By Bill Gilman

From left, Selectman Tony Archinski, challenger Brian Bond and Selectman Jesse Forcier debated Monday at Harmony Hall.

Social Media, stormwater fees and Town Manager Jim Duggan were among the topics on the table, as candidates for the Board of Selectmen met in the only debate of the 2019 Election season.
The hour-long debate began in an affable fashion but by the midway point, challenger Brian Bond and incumbents Tony Archinski and Jesse Forcier were trading barbs and accusations. Bond said the incumbents let Duggan run the town and simply rubber-stamped everything the town manager wanted. Both Archinski and Forcier accused Bond of fostering ill-will on social media by allowing anonymous users to post personal attacks on pages he moderates.
The fourth candidate in the race, challenger John Joyce, had agreed to take part in the event but was a late cancellation.
The debate, which took place the Harvey Gagnon Harmony Hall, was sponsored by the Lowell Sun, with Chris Scott serving as moderator.
One issue that stirred a great deal of discussion was the federal mandate requiring to the town to invest an estimated $900,000 on stormwater cleanup. Town officials have been weighing how best to pay for the liability, with budget cuts or fee assessment among the solutions. All three candidates said they oppose imposing a new fee on residents. Bond, however, blamed the incumbents and the other members of the board for not addressing the issue sooner.
"I would have told the town manager, a long time ago, to set up an account," said Bond. "This storm mitigation has been coming for two to three years, now. So, I don't know why, it's all of a sudden become an issue with these sitting selectmen. They should have been proactive instead of reactive."
Forcier countered that the Board of Selectmen have been addressing the various aspects of the issue, including securing the funds to hire a Stormwater Manager.
"It's wrong to say that we just started addressing this issue," he said. "I'm very concerned about this fee. Not just because of the impact on the residential tax base but also on small business."
Archinski said he has discussed with Duggan, some alternative ways to pay for the $900,000 liability. Among them is a proposal to use free cash to pay for some of the capital equipment that will be needed for stormwater management.

When Scott brought up internet discourse and a frequent poster who writes (often inflammatory) posts under the name of "John Cross", Bond said he understood why some people in town would be fearful of using their real name when discussing Dracut online.
"Dracut being Dracut, some folks are afraid to come forward and put their names on things because they are afraid of ramifications," said Bond. "Unfortunately in Dracut, it's personal. Everything's personal, it's not politics. It's unfortunate, because I think we all want Dracut to move forward. But some people are afraid to speak out publicly."
Forcier was incredulous, saying that listening to Bond bemoaning the negative climate of Dracut politics and people being fearful of being attacked made him feel like he was "in the Twilight Zone."
"The very issue we're talking about is Mr. Bond's Facebook page (Dracut Connection) and John Cross," said Forcier, before speaking directly to Bond. "And whether you know who John Cross is or not, you're fostering everything he says on your page. You can edit that page ... The very reason candidates aren't running for office in Dracut is because of this. Enough is enough. Everything that's wrong with Dracut politics stems from his page and another page and anonymous posters."
Archinski said he tries to steer clear of social media as much as possible, but did say he opposes people being able to make anonymous, inflammatory posts.
"I don't think you should let anonymous people to write on your page," he said to Bond. "Because there's no accountability for it. They can say what they want and don't have to tell people their name or what angle they're coming from."
All three candidates said they feel Town Manager Jim Duggan has done an excellent job, particularly in the area of economic development. Though Archinski and Forcier agreed his inter-personal skills were still a bit "rough around the edges."
"He's a real go-getter. He's got his fingers in a lot more things than the people know now, to bring more economic development," said Archinski.
Bond said he agrees that Duggan as done well and doesn't want to see him leave, but he pressed his point that he believes the Board of Selectmen needs to exercise more oversight on Duggan and needs to do more to drive the agenda of local government.
Forcier said the board does its job and that "everything the town manager does comes from the direction of the Board of Selectmen."
The debate was broadcast live by DATV.
The complete debate can be seen below video taken by Your Dracut Today Editor Bill Gilman.
Voters in Dracut will go to the polls on May 6.

Dracut Selectmen's Debate, April 22, 2019, Harvey Goguen Harmony Hall

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