Tuesday February 19, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

SHAFTSBURY -- Of the two newcomers running for election to a three-year Select Board seat, one would like to reduce the road crew's staff and the other wants to see the town's computer system upgraded.

Kenneth Harrington, owner of Ken Harrington Construction, said in an interview Monday he feels the town road crew could be reduced by at least two people, which between salaries and benefits for those positions would save $100,000. He said he was the highway foreman from 1973 to 1977 and feels the experience he gained running it as well as his own business would be a benefit to the board.

Harrington said the road crew -- now at six members -- is twice the size it was in the 1970s and the board plans to build a new garage which he said is too large for what the town needs. Meanwhile, he said, the town has not gained much in the way of new roads to maintain.

Harrington, who opened his construction business in 1986, considers himself "semi-retired" at age 67. He said were the economy in better shape he could see going back to full-time. According to Harrington, the taxes on his home have increased by 400 percent since he built it and many taxpayers have been feeling the pinch. He believes the town needs more in the way of industrial and commercial zones.

"I think you have to watch every dollar just like you were paying for it out of your own pocket," he said, adding that he fears ever-increasing state regulations may some day require the town to build something large like a wastewater treatment facility, which the town would be hard pressed to pay for.

Mitchell Race, president of the Shaftsbury Historical Society, said he would like to apply his 30 years of experience with financial information technology to the board. He said for the past 18 years he has been running his own consulting firm and took more of an interest in town happenings when he started working from home about five years ago. Race said he settled in Shaftsbury in 1999 after growing up in Granville, N.Y., and spending much of his time around Lake St. Catherine, in the Wells and Pawlet area.

Race said he wishes to help with the town's plan to offer more public information online, the intent being for the town government to become more transparent as well as more efficient as clerks would have more time to spend on other duties. He said he feels he can help set up a maintenance plan for the new system as well as be of general help with computers.

Race said he has been more active in the town as of late, and two weeks ago was appointed to the Development Review Board. He said the law allows him on both boards but he is not yet certain if he will have time for both seats. According to Race, much of the town planning process had been geared towards an anticipated boom in population, but that does not appear to have happened and so the town should focus more on keeping what it has by keeping taxes as low as possible. He commended the existing board for having a level funded, or nearly so, budget for the past few years.

"I think people should take more of an interest in what's going on in town," Race said, acknowledging that people are often busy, but it's important they be informed and active all the same.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr