By Jim Sullivan
---- — SALISBURY — Five candidates for selectman and two for town moderator squared off at Town Hall for Candidates Night last night amidst a standing-room-only crowd.
The event, moderated by Daily News editor John Macone, gave the candidates their first public forum before the town election on April 30.
The five candidates for the two selectmen seats faced off on many different issues, many times finding common ground.
Incumbent Ed Hunt spoke of his life-long love of Salisbury as the town he has raised his children and grandchildren in and his hopes to continue to represent it.
Freeman Condon cited his previous experience as a selectman and his positions on many different public boards as why he hopes to hold the selectman position again.
Ron Laffely cited his experience as an architect working with the community many times in the past as the most relevant experience he can bring to the position.
Stating that she is the “new kid on the block,” after arriving in Salisbury from Methuen three years ago, Paula Moore cited her 30 years of managerial experience at the Internal Revenue Service as the financial experience she needs to deal with budget issues.
Tom Saab said he was running for selectman because he wants to see change in the community. Saab cited his volunteer work in Salisbury as the most important asset he brings to the table, as opposed to his business experience.
When the topic of rental property regulations came up, Saab said, “A vote for Laffely is a vote for the building inspector.”
On the subject of building a new library, Moore came down on the side of a voter-approved action. Saab expressed an interest in updating the library before building a new one. Condon stated that renovating the current library would be too much work for such an old building and would like to see a new library built. Laffely said he believes a public building is a symbol of the community but that he doesn’t have enough information at the moment to make a decision, while Hunt preferred to remain neutral as well.
When asked what role does Salisbury Beach play in their vision of Salisbury, Saab said the beach is what separates Salisbury from the surrounding communities and it should be the lifeblood of the town itself. Condon said the beach is the economic engine that will drive Salisbury back to prosperity.
Having grown up on Salisbury Breach, Hunt said he can envision a boardwalk, a pier and many different attractions on the beach. Laffely grew up in Maine and said he remembers a time when Salisbury Beach was a great attraction before gambling arrived. He urged the mile-long area be developed more by the town itself to become an excellent tax base. Moore said the beach is a diamond in the rough and stated that she would like to see more shops like those in Newburyport along the beach to draw in more visitors.
Beach erosion, building a new police station and taxes were also hot topics. Moore expressed an interest in a meals tax while Saab asserted that he would like to see the Planning Board’s role diminished.
A Salisbury selectman for nine years, Jerry Klima said he decided to run for town moderator because he felt it is time for a change. Klima also said that if elected he will be more effective in doing the things he wants to do such as helping with beach projects and the rail trail.
Salisbury native Ronnie Ray-Parrott said the values she was raised with drove her to run for moderator. Both candidates cited their previous experience (for Klima as a corporate attorney and Ray-Parrott as an expert on juvenile justice in North Carolina respectively) as reasons they would be able to keep order during Town Meetings.