Two battle for Wilton selectman

WILTON – Residents will elect a new selectman in March, either a native who has held a variety of town offices, or a new resident currently serving on the Budget Committee who has governing experience in Arizona.

Selectman Steve McDonough chose not to seek re-election.

Candidates Jim Tuttle and Rick Swanson agree that the main issues facing voters are taxes and the addition to the fire station.

Swanson, 56, has lived in Wilton for three years and has served on the Budget Committee for two years. He was previously a member of the Flagstaff City Council and said he found municipal government “challenging and rewarding,” and feels he has a lot to offer. He is the marketing and development director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County in Keene.

Tuttle, 63, is a Wilton native and a member of the Water and Sewer commissions. He previously served on the Zoning Board, as road agent, and was on the Fire Department for 25 years.

Concerning taxes Swanson said, “All towns are trying to do more with less.” Wilton’s tax rate is lower than some surrounding towns “but it is very high and it is a real struggle for people to pay. It is the responsibility of government to not make it higher. It would be nice to find a way for seniors on a fixed income to get a lower rate, maybe make it a percentage.”

“Taxes,” Tuttle said, “are something we can’t get away from, but we need to look at how we spend the money with some kind of restraints. We have to take into consideration people who can’t pay their bills. The town has been frugal (in the past) and now it’s catching up with us. And prices keep climbing.”

Swanson said now is the time to remodel the fire station. “It has to be done and there will never be a perfect time. Now is the time to do it and move on.”

Tuttle wasn’t sure the town should spend close to $2 million. “Do we really need to? We need to step back and take a look at the whole town.” He agreed the fire station issue “needs to be settled and then we can move on.” But he cited other issues: the cost of a new ambulance is going up, work needs to be done at the Recycling Center, there are water and sewer problems and need for new equipment.

Accepting the former Sacred Heart Church as a possible community center was problematic for both men, and they agreed it is an issue that needs to be decided by Town Meeting. It is on the warrant for March.

They agreed that the community could use the center and the meeting space, bringing the building up to code will be expensive. A group of citizens has been working on the problems and how to pay for them.

Swanson said he was concerned about the restrictions placed on the building by the Catholic Diocese, and wondered if that would create a problem in the future.

Tuttle said accepting the church “won’t be a one-shot deal. There will the maintenance.” He was also concerned about the lack of parking.

Some of the town’s bridges are another concern. The state has cited four of them as in poor condition, but has moved the repair or replacement as much as 10 years into the future, and it is not certain the money will be available then. In the mean time, oil trucks, fire trucks, and other large vehicles will not cross them.

Repair “needs to be done,” Swanson said, “but the town doesn’t have the money right now. And there are public safety issues.”

Tuttle agreed. “(Repairs) involves state aid and they keep pushing it back. We may have to look into doing it ourselves.”

Tuttle said, “I think I can contribute something to the board and can work with the other two. I don’t have an agenda, just want to help them out. We need to get some things accomplished.”

Swanson said his background in government would be a help and his years on the Budget Committee have given him a sense of what the town’s needs are and how they can be met.

Voting will take place on Tuesday, March 12, at the Town Hall. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Town Meeting will be held on Thursday, March 14, 7 p.m., in the Florence Rideout Elementary School gym.