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April 3, 2014

Pool, Pirie property top topics at debate

(Continued)

Yesterday’s debate, hosted by the Hamilton Council on Aging, became heated when Selectwoman Jennifer Scoteri criticized Hubbard over the Pirie Property project during a segment allowing questions from the audience.

She challenged Hubbard’s assessment of the situation, saying, “Shouldn’t we be transparent about what happened to the [property] since the sale?” She said the land recently sold for $7 million. She and Hubbard then argued over the difference in property taxes levied on the property since that sale.

Both candidates agreed that those issues were dominating discussions in town at the expense of other important topics. They also agreed the school budget needs closer scrutiny.

Another issue that sizzled yesterday, however, was transparency in town government and communication with residents. Both Hubbard and Farrell said it’s a problem, but they seemed to disagree on what exactly the problems are.

Hubbard said there’s a “Town Hall morale problem,” relations with neighboring Wenham are faltering, and he’s hearing from residents “disgusted” with the conduct of some selectmen. Hubbard also said he just learned about a proposal to use town resources to purchase the Mac’s Shoe Repair property, but that plan has largely avoided public scrutiny due to a lack of communication.

Hubbard said there are too many unanswered questions about the property to justify the town purchasing it now. Farrell, on the other hand, said there were clear benefits to the town in terms of future lease payments.

Hubbard also argued that the town manager form of government places too much consolidated authority in one person and should be thoroughly reviewed. Farrell, however, said more communication is needed from town government to the public and also between boards and departments, but he disagreed that the fault necessarily lies with Town Manager Michael Lombardo.

Farrell said Lombardo is a competent, professional who’s working with selectmen.

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