2017-11-02 / News

Three candidates seek Ward 6 seat

Three candidates are running for the Ward 6 Saco City Council seat. Eric Cote will not seek reelection. Jason Boucher, Theodore Sirois and Micah Smart hope to represent Ward 6 on city council. Below are survey responses in alphabetical order.

Name: Jason Boucher
Age: 33
Address: 15 North St.
Phone: 229-0017
Occupation: Residential contractor and associate
broker with The Maine Real Estate Network
Family: Not married
Education completed: TA grad, associates degree
from SMCC

Top three issues:
1. Downtown density and development
2. Public transport
3. Ensuring that taxes don’t continue to rise

Why are you seeking elected office?

I’m hopeful that through community focused solutions I can help direct decisions being made to consider a younger demographic. As a life long resident of Saco, now living in the downtown, I see so much potential for what could be. I see a shift in younger generations toward living in walkable and or bike friendly communities. Maine as a whole has so many great places and spaces to enjoy the outdoors and downtown Saco is one of those places, encompassed by a livable community. By increasing density in the down town the city can service more people at a lower rate compared to expanding further out to less populated areas of the community. I believe a younger voice and vision will benefit the community as a whole.

What should Saco residents expect of their city councilor?

A city councilor should not only be a member of the community but someone who knows it. With multiple generations of my family living and growing up in Camp Ellis I know the city far beyond my own personal experiences. Experiencing the changes over the years gives me irreplaceable insight of the city and those who live here. I believe the citizens of such a great community deserve one of their own advocating for them.

What is a city councilor’s greatest responsibility to Saco residents?

A council member should always keep in mind who elected them. Saco residents deserve representation that keeps their ideals for their community in mind. We all have our own reasons for why we call Saco home; it’s history, family, educational system, excellence in community services, access to beautiful water ways, accessibility to neighboring communities, amongst many others. Being able to balance these expectations while having thoughtful consideration for generations to come is a council members biggest responsibility. Supporting the community for now and it’s members families for years to come does come with growing pains and electing someone who carries that thoughtfulness with them will ensure everyone’s best interests are fulfilled.

Name: Theodore Sirois
Age: 62
Position seeking: Saco City

Council, Ward 6
Address: 38 Summer St.
Phone: 590-0123
Occupation: Equipment
technician, Texas Instruments,
South Portland; Retired U.S. Navy
chief
Family: Six children, three
grandchildren
Education completed:
Thornton Academy, class of 1972;

Associate’s in Business Systems, UMaine at Machias;
Bachelor’s in Technical Education, USM; Master’s in
Adult Education, USM
Organizations and activities: Saco School Board,
Ward 6; Member, Saco Citizens for Sensible Government

Top three issues:
1, Bring Saco’s mil rate down by restoring more
property back onto the tax rolls and finding alternative

sources of revenue: In the last 20 years, residential property owner’s responsibility to cover municipal expenses has risen from 66 percent to 75 percent. Some of this problem was caused by allowing large tracks of private property to be taken off the tax rolls by the city for unspecified future use. Much of this property is underutilized and expensive to maintain. Also, more property has come off the rolls as owners declare them to be land trusts or that they are used for nonprofit businesses.

2. Respect the will of the voters: In 2014, voters bonded $990,000 to rebuild the Stackpole Bridge if it was historical. Despite finding that this was not a historical structure, the voters’ will was ignored and an extra $370,000 was approved to restore this bridge. In 2013, voters voted to withdraw from RSU 23 but we have yet paid off the cost of this withdrawal. Unless voters approve a bond to repay a debt, Saco should pay outstanding debts promptly and not kick it down the road for another administration to pay off. What voters say on referendum votes must be respected.

3. Capitalize on our recreational opportunities. We have miles of water frontages and large tracks of wooded areas to enjoy. We should partner with businesses to provide more access to these properties along with adequate parking. Revenue could be generated providing tourist with canoes, kayaks, beach chairs, etc. for their use. Diamond Park is one of many prime examples of squandering one of our valuable resources. This beautiful riverfront area has no swimming area, poor access and is badly maintained. We must stop simply hoarding prime recreational property and instead find ways to improve and capitalize on them.

Why are you seeking elected office?

Saco has successfully maintained a unique quality of life. Unlike our neighbors, we prevented the commercialization of our ocean frontage and kept out large box stores. As a result, Saco has been listed as “The richest town in Maine” two years running by a prestigious financial news company. The good news is that means the value of our properties are going up. The bad news is that Saco’s high mil rate combined with this increased property value will raise our property taxes. On the school board, I learned that our high mil rate is not so much the result of school and municipal spending but mostly because of a lack of revenue. I believe one reason for our revenue shortfall is due to the city’s hoarding of former private property that is not generating any property taxes but incurs a cost for maintaining them. Some say “This land is for Saco’s future,” but in the here and now, many current homeowners are forced to sell their homes because they cannot afford the constantly rising property taxes. Also, I believe that some individuals and businesses are abusing our generous tax aversion programs (land trusts, nonprofits, TIFs) to not pay property taxes or divert them to their personal uses. I’m seeking the office of city councilor so I can work with businesses to leverage Saco’s resources to generate more revenue and make sure everyone is paying their fair share of taxes to maintain Saco’s way of life.

What should Saco residents expect of their city councilor?

I believe a councilor should be expected to have a wealth of professional, academic and most importantly, life experiences that helps a person acquire an instinct as to what is right or wrong. Despite all the research one can make about an issue being voted on, a counselor may have to finally rely on their gut instinct to decide on which way to vote. Most of all, a councilor should be expected to have a tremendous love for the city of Saco. I’ve lived in Saco since the mid-1960s. I watched the Saco River evolve from an open sewer to a river I have no problem allowing my children to swim in. While living on Seaside Avenue, I remember how adamantly our neighbors banded together to preserve our oceanfront from commercial developers. After graduating from TA in 1972, I joined the U.S. Navy and spent 20 years working in various other states and visited numerous foreign countries. I returned to Saco and purchased my home in 1992 (just in time to partake in my TA class of 72 reunion). Despite all the other places I lived and worked, I came back to Saco because I knew there was no better place for me to raise our six children. Another thing we should expect from a city councilor is to be knowledgeable about what is going on in our city. Despite the fact that many of us have full time jobs and families of our own, we must make time to attend meetings and read the various documents pertaining to Saco. When a councilor makes a vote, that councilor is expected to know all the facts about the matter being voted on. A councilor should not be expected to be the go to person for problems such as potholes or disagreements about tax assessments. But, they must be knowledgeable enough to direct a constituent to whom in city government can deal with their issue. But also, a councilor is also expected to be that constituent’s advocate if they feel their problem was not handled satisfactorily or courteously by responsible city officials.

What is a city councilor’s greatest responsibility to Saco residents?

A councilor has many responsibilities such as maintaining the historical heritage of our city; making the city a safe place to live and visit; and improving the lifestyle of all who have chosen to make Saco their hometown. But a councilor’s greatest responsibility is to ensure the fiscal viability of this great city. There is a fine balancing act that must be maintained for a full service municipality to operate. We need to make sure that city expenses (School, municipal services, etc.) are controlled so they don’t become greater than the city’s revenue (Property taxes, fees, etc.). Although there is always room for improvements, the municipal expenses of running this city are comparable to other communities. During my tenure on the school board, I was pleased to learn that our schools have the second lowest per student costs in York County. So why does Saco have one of the highest mil rates in the state? The only logical answer to that question is that we have an inadequate revenue stream. What is worse is that revenue stream is overly dependent on residential dwellings. We must be responsible for creating a healthier mix of residences and businesses who call Saco their home. A councilor does not have the executive authority to make the drastic changes necessary to steer the city on the path of better fiscal responsibility. But, on the various committees a councilor serves on, they are responsible for helping them come up with more innovative solutions to increase alternative sources of revenue and being more effective at using what revenue is available. Fiscal responsibility is utmost because we need to be mindful of our elderly citizens, especially long term residents who have worked, raised children and paid their fair share of property taxes for decades past. Many of them have stuck with Saco through numerous economic downturns and they should not be rewarded for their loyalty by being forced out of their homes by high property taxes.

Name: Micah Smart
Age: 34
Position seeking: Saco City Council,
Ward 6
Address: 15 Locke St.
Phone: 318-0821
Occupation: Attorney, Eaton Peabody
Family: Wife Stephanie and a 1-year-old
son
Education completed: J.D. from Maine
Law, B.A. from Quinnipiac University
Organizations and activities: Maine
Association for Public Interest Law, Maine
State and York County Bar Associations,
Volunteer Lawyers Project.

Top three issues:
1. Responsible commercial development.
We have incredible natural and civic
resources in and around Saco that I
think we can better utilize. I also see

opportunities
to attract more
businesses to
Route 1 without
changing the
character of
the city and
our historic
downtown.
This will help
alleviate the
tax burden from
individuals and
provide increased

flexibility in other areas of need. However,
we must be mindful that we do not

overextend our budget and negatively impact existing taxpayers. Saco has done a good job of avoiding long term debt and I want to see that continue.

2. Continued infrastructure investment. Coinciding with commercial development, there has been and will continue to be residential development and population growth. I see the influx of taxpaying families as a positive that will continue the progress and diversification of Saco, but the infrastructure and available services must match this increase in residents. Saco boasts a top flight school system and I would fully support its needs while ensuring that the tax base does not bear an undue burden. I encourage everyone to review the three bond questions on the November ballot, information is available on the city’s website.

3. Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. It is unfortunate that the turbine on Saco Island did not work out, but I believe other projects can and should be considered. Renewable and efficient energy sources not only help the environment but provide long term cost savings to the city and its residents while attracting new and diverse businesses.

Why are you seeking elected office?

I am a relatively new Saco resident but we moved here with the intention to stay and raise our family here. I have a vested interest and want to get involved in the community that has welcomed me since day one. Saco has amazing natural resources in the coastline and river, a deep history, and smart and engaged residents who understand and appreciate the issues facing the city today. I want the opportunity to help the city continue to develop, utilize its resources responsibly, and support the people of Saco.

What should Saco residents expect of their city councilor?

Residents should expect their councilors to be responsive to their questions and concerns and advocate for the changes they desire. However, the city council must also anticipate the lasting implications of the issues that face the city and make the best decision for the immediate and long term good of the community. Residents deserve councilors who will keep an open mind and work collaboratively while taking a stand when necessary. Above all, Saco residents should be able to count on a city council that listens and acts.

What is a city councilor’s greatest responsibility to Saco residents?

Accountability. The city council’s first responsibility is to the people and local businesses that make Saco the vibrant community it is. Councilors are elected officials and have a duty to advocate on behalf of the citizens they represent while bringing their own constructive ideas to the table. Additionally, councilors should communicate reasonable alternative view points in order to foster productive discourse that results in the best possible outcome for the city at large.

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