By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — Election season is still months away, but one Amesbury resident is already gearing up for a run for City Council.
Eric Bezanson, 37, of 115 Whitehall Road, announced recently that he intends to campaign for at-large city councilor. He called himself a strong supporter of increasing revenue while controlling spending in order to lower the tax rate and said helping shore up Amesbury’s financial situation would be his sole priority.
Bezanson was born and raised in Amesbury and has spent the last 13 years working at Fidelity Investments. He said he shares many of the same views as councilors Christian Scorzoni and Donna McClure, identifying with Scorzoni’s views on bringing solar energy to Amesbury and with McClure’s drive to cut wasteful spending.
“How can we differentiate ourselves without impacting the tax rate,” Bezanson said, adding that he agrees with Mayor Thatcher Kezer from a big picture standpoint ,but wants to help lead Amesbury forward “without going poor getting there.”
Bringing solar energy to Amesbury in particular would be an area of interest for Bezanson. He said city-owned properties like Woodsom Farm and the former truck stop offer tremendous potential for solar revenue, but aren’t being utilized.
“Amesbury is the No. 1 community in the state that could be used for that and we haven’t taken advantage of that,” Bezanson said, adding he believes the potential exists for the city to garner $900,000 in new revenue from solar initiatives.
In the past, Bezanson has appeared at City Council meetings to weigh in on some of Amesbury’s big financial debates.
Three years ago when the City Council was debating whether to spend $500,000 on a new elevator for the Fire Department in order to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, he argued that the city could save the money and comply with the law simply by putting the fire chief’s office on the first floor, where he would be accessible to the public.
Bezanson said the council initially was skeptical, but eventually came around after members spoke to state officials and found out that was allowed.
“It’s looking outside the box and thinking there are a lot of ways to get things done,” Bezanson said.
Last summer, Bezanson also questioned the city’s desire to move the Department of Public Works garage. He called the plans to revitalize the Lower Millyard a great vision, but said the city should only move forward once the area has an assessed value of $50 million.
“If investors prove themselves and say they’re going to come, let’s put our hands up,” Bezanson said.
In December of 2011, Bezanson appeared before the City Council and argued that the city should use all of its $1.2 million in free cash to bring down the 2012 tax rate and then try and sell enough publicly owned properties to recoup the money the following year. At the time, Amesbury’s tax rate was set to increase from $18.46 to last year’s rate of $19.13.
“It creates new growth and continuous tax revenue for the town,” Bezanson then told the council.
This past December, using free cash to help offset the rising tax rate was once again brought up as a way to ease the burden on taxpayers. Much of that discussion was driven by the Citizens for Lower Taxes in Amesbury group, which advocates for tax reduction.
Bezanson said he was once a part of that group, but is no longer a member. He said he became disillusioned by the group’s rhetoric and wanted to focus his efforts in a more productive fashion.
“I’m not about complaining about things or causing a ruckus,” Bezanson said. “I want to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.”
Currently, the at-large members of the city council are James Kelcourse, Allen Neale and council President Anne Ferguson. At-large candidates can be from any of the city’s six districts, with the top three vote-getters out of the pool of candidates elected to the council.
Bezanson technically won’t be able to declare his official candidacy until the spring, because the nomination papers won’t be available until after city clerk Bonnijo Kitchin finalizes the year’s election calendar. Kitchin said she expects that to be done by April or May, and that the exact time she can get the information out will depend on when the upcoming U.S. Senate special election dates are set.
Once those forms are available, Bezanson indicated that he would take out his papers and begin his campaign immediately.