AMESBURY – Candidates running for City Council seats responded to three questions from The Daily News prior to the election Tuesday.
1. What issue would be your top priority as a city councilor?
2. The school district budget makes up 58% of the city’s annual operating budget. Is that enough or do you want to see more spent on schools?
3. How would you best leverage the added attention the city will see from Maples Crossing?
COUNCILOR AT LARGE, vote for not more than three:
Name: Steven J. Stanganelli
Education: Bachelor of arts – economics and government/political science (magna cum laude), University of Lowell; master of science – finance (high honors), Bentley College; College for Financial Planning
Municipal offices held: Councilor at large completing second term; member of Joint Education Committee and Finance Committee; former member, Open Space Natural Resources and Trails Committee
1. We can do better by developing a multipoint and multiyear plan for affordable housing.
I recommend changing zoning to allow detached ancillary dwelling units (ADU) on existing single- or two-family properties (sometimes referred to as “granny pods”) which will increase the housing supply and may even allow seniors to more affordably “age in place” in their homes. I also am drafting a new tax credit to help senior homeowners and renters and support adopting a tax deferral program for seniors. I recommend that we find grants and private lenders to help landlords improve their properties with zero- or low-interest loans.
2. Investing in our community begins with investments in the schools, not just a new building. What is more important is how and where we invest. We need to invest in the classrooms. We have schools using 12-year-old computers and textbooks. We need to replace what we lost in the areas of foreign language, life skills, Advanced Placement and Early College classes. We need to reverse the 28% attrition between eighth and ninth grades. We need to stop losing $2.3 million each year that goes out of district when kids leave. That money will help us here without increasing the budget.
3. Maples Crossing will be transformative. The best way to capitalize on it is through a collaborative public-private effort that involves the city’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Office, the Chamber, and regional tourism agencies. We should invest in a marketing plan for the downtown. This idea was suggested by councilors like me two years ago. Plans can include marketing joint events, adding shuttles, expanding parking in satellite lots around town, and changing zoning to allow a small boutique hotel or bed-and-breakfast downtown. We should also fund additional staff or resources for the CED Office to help implement these ideas.
Name: Joseph McMilleon
Occupation: Retired high school principal; currently a part-time adjunct professor at Northern Essex Community College and at Cambridge College Graduate School of Business.
Education: Northeastern University – major, criminal justice; University of Massachusetts – B.A., government and sociology; Fitchburg State College – M.A. guidance counseling and social studies certification; Lesley University, M.S. in human resource management
Municipal offices held: Four years as councilor at large; 12 years as District 5 councilor; six years as president of the City Council; four years as vice president of the City Council
1. As I’m sure many of you realize, as a councilor you need to focus on multiple issues. However, if forced to choose one issue, it would be to continue to support and pursue the promotion of even more business and commercial development in the vacant lots that we have available in our community; this will increase tax revenue, lower our residential property taxes, and provide increased revenue to address our capital improvement needs – like municipal building repairs, protection of our natural resources and recreational areas, and address the needs in our schools.
2. What I would really like to see is a more effective use of our school funds. For example, by focusing on more programs that identify and remediate student learning difficulties early on, many of these students would not need expensive special education services later on and the schools would realize significant savings; these savings would then be available to address many other educational needs in our schools. Also, all communities should receive additional and more equitable state funding. Finally, I would strongly advocate for monies from our business and commercial growth to be dedicated to our schools.
3. My responses to the previous two questions explains how our community can leverage the tax revenue from the Maples Crossing development. As a result of the Maples Crossing development, we have already benefited by millions of dollars from the state for traffic and infrastructure improvements that will benefit our entire community. The tax revenue benefits and other business stimulation from the Maple Crossing project will further result in significant positive growth for our community and additional tax revenue for the betterment of our schools, infrastructure and public buildings.
Name: Scott Mandeville
Education: Accredited bachelor’s degree of architecture, Syracuse University
Municipal offices held: Planning Board vice chair, Design Review Committee
1. The city is overdue for a master plan update. My time on the Planning Board has shown me that although many of the ideas that came out of the last master plan are finally coming to fruition, we need to look ahead to the next 10 years as a city to tie all our recent growth together. We’ve created many new structures and increased the tax base, but we’ve been falling behind on roadway improvements, and sidewalks. This master plan will seek to provide the highest level of service for our citizens, while targeting capital needs improvements, and exploring tax revenue vs. expenditures to target the needs of the citizens who call Amesbury home.
2. The budget expenditures on schools seem high, but citizens are still suffering from taxes that can’t go higher. We need to find alternate revenue sources to subsidize our schools, and explore areas where we have waste in the current budget and operation costs. Once we trim the fat, that is additional potential revenue which could be allocated elsewhere.
3. Maples Crossing will leverage itself as a destination for hockey fans, tournaments and other events. The venue will become an instant draw for out-of-town visitors. The important issue at hand is how we capitalize on the people visiting and pivot those travelers to downtown Amesbury. There are plans for a hotel, restaurants, retail and bars at Maples Crossing. This is a one-stop shop, and although we will enjoy a tax windfall from this project, much of that tax money has already been spent for roadway improvements and infrastructure.
Candidate Adrienne Dawn Lennon did not respond.
Name: Mark Roccograndi
Occupation: Facilities manager/construction project manager
Education: B.S., hospitality administration, Johnson & Wales University, 1994
Municipal offices held: Appointed to City Council, at large, 2019; Quality of Life Committee, 2016-19
1. While I feel that issues like the schools, taxes and business development will be paramount on all of our minds as candidates. I feel the area in which I would like to focus will be on establishing a relationship and working with the department managers of the city, such as the DPW, W&S as well as the school maintenance/facilities manager to see how I can help support them and get them the resources they need to succeed. Would also love to see 911 back here locally, if the FD/PD/EMS leadership supported such a plan.
2. This year, the school budget increased by almost $1 million. Special education increases all but erased that. I feel that the school administration is looking into ways to service more students in-house and reduce the cost of outplacements. I would certainly like to see more money go to the schools, it is my hope and belief that continued business development will help make that happen.
3. Amesbury is a fantastic place. We have wonderful restaurants, a beautiful historic town and a rich history. It would be my goal to help provide a clean and well-maintained city with paved streets and well-lit sidewalks. After that, I think the fine people of Amesbury are more than capable of making a great impression on their own. They know what to do and how to do it. My goal is support Maples Crossing and all businesses as much as possible and let Amesbury work its magic. Sometimes, the best thing politicians can do is get out of the way and let success happen!
DISTRICT 1 COUNCILOR, vote for not more than one:
Name: Pam Gilday
Occupation: Technical writer
Education: Northeastern University, bachelor of science, business administration; New Hampshire Vocational-Technical College, associate of science electromechanical drafting and design; Bentley University, certificate user experience; University of New Hampshire, certificate web design and development
Municipal offices held: City councilor, District 1, 2017 to present; member of Finance Committee, Energy Committee (secretary), Open Space, Natural Resources and Trail Committee (secretary), Joint Education Committee, Community Development Block Grant Committee, and Athletic Fields Subcommittee
1. Some top priorities are improved communication between City Hall and residents, updating the Amesbury Open Space and Recreation Plan, addressing traffic concerns in D1, including ongoing discussions in the Point Shore neighborhood and issues that will arise as the Elm Street reconstruction project begins in the spring, replicating the Little League assets for the 2021 season, the athletic fields project plans, updating our recycling program, getting real estimates on school and city-side building maintenance and weather-proofing costs, and working collaboratively with peers on city boards and at City Hall to promote positive legislation, practices, and community. More at https://www.facebook.com/pamgildayamesburycitycouncil.
2. I would like to see a transparent school budget development process that involves school principals taking their needs and wants (developed in conjunction with site council input) to the School Committee Finance Subcommittee and superintendent to begin the budget draft. I will attend or watch School Committee meetings closely as they pertain to this budget development process. I want the opportunity, as a city councilor, to see and vote on a School Department budget that has been developed in this manner. Also, the Amesbury Middle School roof and Cashman Elementary School HVAC and phone system must be repaired or replaced in the coming year.
3. I will continue to support and advocate for the DIF money from the project to be used for roadway and infrastructure improvements in that section of District 1, including Phase 1 funding for Bailey’s Pond drainage issues at the base of Beacon. The Maples Crossing development will bring a positive image and financial benefit to the city but it will also bring a lot of traffic. Managing traffic impact between that site and into and through town, as well as along the Point Shore area, is important along with the Routes 495/150 exchange redesign and widening of South Hunt Road.
DISTRICT 2 COUNCILOR, vote for not more than one:
Name: Anthony S. Rinaldi
Occupation: Retired (director of quality)
Education: B.S., electrical engineering; Clarkson University, M.S. in applied mathematics. RIT
Municipal activities: Member of the Amesbury Energy Committee
1. My top priority as a city councilor would be to make Amesbury a city that supports seniors who are in danger of losing their homes due to increased tax burdens. This can be accomplished by policy changes in zoning and to existing tax abatement and tax deferment programs. A second part of this effort would be partnering with local entities and state agencies to obtain additional funding for low and medium cost housing.
I will also put a high priority on responding to issues raised by District 2 residents.
2. Our schools are facing significant issues from the lack of investments in staffing, infrastructure, technology and programming. Some of our increasing attrition can be attributed to the loss of staffing and programming. Investments will be required to correct this situation. Making these investments will become more difficult because of the Amesbury Elementary School building project. A well-staffed focused program searching for outside funding could be fruitful. Without the added investment, whatever the source, we are at risk of becoming a second-rate school system.
3. The development of Maples Crossing offers Amesbury a unique opportunity to draw additional downtown foot traffic. As a city councilor, I would support and promote initiatives brought to the council that enhance our tourism, beautification and townwide marketing. Perhaps, we should encourage a partnership between Maples Crossing, the merchants and the city to create a shuttle system available at peak activity times to alleviate traffic and parking issues in the downtown area.
Name: Tim Osgood
Education: Springfield College, B.S./M.S., history, secondary education
Municipal offices held: Chairperson, Quality of Life Committee
1. As District 2 councilor, the issues I would prioritize include: supporting existing and future business in the Lower Millyard and its continued development, ensuring the Amesbury Elementary School building project comes in on time and on budget, and working to improve the quality of life for all residents in Amesbury. This includes smart investment in public safety, infrastructure (roads and sidewalks), and in education, all while being mindful of taxpayer dollars.
2. As an educator, I have seen firsthand how continued and proper investment in our schools can impact student achievement. In a perfect world, schools wouldn’t have to worry about funding; unfortunately, money is finite and it’s the job of the council to balance the needs of the schools with other city departments that provide vital services to Amesbury’s residents. I am hopeful the Student Opportunity Act, which would add $1.5 billion to the public education system, will be signed into law in the near future and fairly reshape the formula the state uses to fund public education (Chapter 70).
3. The Maples Crossing hockey complex will be one of Amesbury’s greatest business and community assets moving forward. It is imperative that guests visiting the facility be encouraged to venture downtown to indulge in our shops and restaurants, stay at our hotels, and experience all the city has to offer through a targeted marketing campaign. Most important will be sharing the success story of Maples Crossing to attract more businesses to invest in Amesbury and continue the economic development and growth along the Route 150 corridor.
DISTRICT 3 COUNCILOR, vote for not more than one:
Name: Matthew Einson
Occupation: IT director, The Community Group, Lawrence
Education: B.A., geography, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1981; MS, meteorology, Pennsylvania State University, 1987
Municipal office held: District 3 city councilor, 2016 to present; council vice president, 2018 to March 2019; Council president, March 2019 to present
1. Now that the new Amesbury Elementary School project has been approved through a citywide vote, the future of the existing facility is a major concern for many residents of District 3.
Neighbors of the current Amesbury Elementary School are losing a neighborhood school, and are very concerned that the existing facility will be left empty as had been the case with the Horace Mann School for many years. It will be my priority to work with city planners and whoever is the next mayor to ensure that the existing facility is put to good use.
2. In the fiscal 2020 budget document, the $32.64 million school budget comprises 53.4% of general fund expenditures. Several staff reductions and additions in the fiscal 2020 School Committee budget resulted in a net increase of $992,870 over fiscal 2019. While $744,124 below that needed for level service, this increase is described as “unsustainable” in the fiscal 2020 budget document. Our schools have several needs; the mayor, School Committee, and City Council must work together to advocate for increased state funding, apply for whatever grants may be available, and clearly define school priorities so tax payers know how their money is being spent.
3. Maple Crossing may be the most exciting opportunity that I have seen since moving to Amesbury 27 years ago. I expect the mayor, city economic development staff, City Council and Chamber of Commerce to continue to work closely with the developers. All efforts should be made to encourage and facilitate promotion of our city to the many people who will be using the new complex. Wayfinding signs pointing people to downtown and various attractions, a new visitor website, and local area maps are among ideas to help new visitors take advantage of our city offerings.
DISTRICT 4 COUNCILOR, vote for not more than one:
Name: Nicholas Wheeler
Occupation: Plumbing and fire protection engineer
Education: A.S., CAD technology, Middlesex Community College (2006); B.S., industrial technology, Fitchburg State University (2012)
Municipal offices held: School Committee (2016-17); City Council, District 4 (2018-19)
1. As the current D4 representative, I plan to continue advocating on behalf of the residents in my district. As I’ve said in previous questionnaires, I serve because I like helping people. I’ve continued to focus my campaign on providing information in an open and transparent way through face-to-face interactions, phone conversations, email and social media to help my neighbors express their concerns, learn about their choices and understand how important their voices are, especially here at the local level. In addition to advocacy, I plan to continue focusing on improving schools, infrastructure and overall quality of life issues affecting D4.
2. I’m a strong proponent of increasing funding for our schools. As a former member of the Amesbury School Committee, I know firsthand the struggles our school district regularly faces with budgeting, with each year’s budget barely keeping pace with inflation. That said, I’d also like to see school-related costs decrease as a percentage of our overall property tax levy, primarily due to increased funding via the state’s Chapter 70 contributions. As many who follow the budget process are aware, the state continues to fall short on its obligations toward education funding, and local costs have risen exponentially as a result.
3. In preparation for Maples Crossing, we need to continue leveraging state and private funds to mitigate infrastructure and traffic concerns associated with the project. We can also anticipate utilizing the resulting revenue streams generated by the project (increased property taxes, meals and hotel taxes) to offset the burden from our current home and business owners, all while also boosting our local economy and downtown at the same time using the increased foot traffic. Through mindful planning, we can hopefully incorporate this growth thoughtfully, all while protecting and enhancing the character, charm and history of the city we call home.
DISTRICT 5 COUNCILOR, vote for not more than one:
Name: Tim Kisieleski
Occupation: Business owner
Education: Lakenheath American High School, Lakenheath, England; University of Maryland, Munich, Germany, campus
Municipal offices held: School Committee
1. To continue the work Mayor Gray and the other parties involved with bringing new commercial businesses to Amesbury have been engaged in. Commercial tax income will bring millions and millions to the coffers. These funds will allow us to accelerate infrastructure repairs, school upgrades and increased social and scholastic programs, that have been happening the last six years, without continuing to come to the homeowner to fund these projects.
2. It’s a very complicated question. As a number and percentage of our budget, yes, the city spends enough. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are inequities in Chapter 70 reimbursement rates, unfunded mandates both at a state and federal level that we’re required to meet. Increasing technology requirements for the students with hardware/operating platforms that becomes obsolete soon after we acquire them. Decades of neglect and repair deferment (which we’re finally starting to come to grips with) with large price tags. So as an answer — yes — and no.
3. By maximizing the amount of revenue opportunities coming in with the Maples Crossing project. Another hotel and fast track permitting for the commercial Route 110 corridor. Once we get the patrons here, we need to keep them here and make them want to come back. Potentially some kind of a blended cost (city/merchants/crossing) trolley to get guests and Crossing patrons downtown to experience our shopping and dining opportunities
DISTRICT 6 COUNCILOR, vote for not more than one:
Name: Michael A. Hogg
Occupation: Enterprise sales
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Hartwick College
1. Amesbury has finally taken an important step to address a key, longstanding issue that has plagued the city by voting to build a new Amesbury Elementary School. This is great news and will require much attention from and coordination within and among city and School Department resources to ensure we execute on our vision. Unfortunately, many other municipal assets have largely been neglected and require significant investment to maximize their useful life. As a city, we need to develop a capital improvement plan that will allow us to simultaneously focus on near-term and long-term needs and wants.
2. The Amesbury Public Schools 2020 budget includes a $445,000 increase in out-of-district costs for students attending Whittier Tech, Essex Tech and RVCS. These out-of-district costs totaled $2.3 million (7% of the school budget). This increase is the result of a significant increase in the rate of attrition from eighth grade to high school. This is a clear indication that we’re not providing the programs and services parents and student desire, while our neighboring schools are. We need to invest in our schools and offer programs and learning experiences to remain competitive and keep students in Amesbury.
3. As a member of Amesbury’s City Council, I believe it is important to understand our economic development vision and goals and build consensus around a strategy to attain these goals. A strategic approach means linking economic development goals to specific activities, allocating a budget and staff to these activities and evaluating performance based on measurable outcomes. It is essential to consider how other city policies affect these economic development goals. The administration and City Council need to operate in a timely, reliable and transparent manner on all issues while remaining true to the long-term economic development vision.
Name: Rick Marggraf
Education: Merrimack College, B.S., accounting/finance
Municipal offices held (elected and appointed): Amesbury Municipal Council, District 6
1. As District 6 councilor, my top priorities over the next two years are: careful management of commercial growth along Route 110, and the balancing of educational needs, infrastructure investments, economic development, and public safety requirements with our available resources. New commercial development will soon contribute additional tax revenue to the city coffers, but we must continue to be vigilant by controlling the spending of taxpayer dollars.
2. The School Committee determines the needs of the Amesbury Public Schools and City Council approves the final school budget. School spending goes up over $1 million each year largely due to special education. SPED costs are state mandated while Chapter 70 state aid to local cities and towns remains woefully inadequate in spite of reform efforts. I would like to see the elimination of bus fees and athletic user fees as a first step. Eventually, new commercial tax revenue will afford us the ability to rebuild arts, languages, technology and vocational trade programs, among others.
3. The analogy that comes to mind is Manchester Boston Regional Airport’s local marketing campaign effort touting its ease of use compared to Boston Logan. I envision indoor billboards located at Maples Crossing marketing local restaurants, shops, beaches and mountains, shuttle service, a cell phone app, and a concierge desk catering to visitors. Amesbury needs to maintain a business-friendly reputation in order to continue leveraging new commercial investors.