POWNAL -- Two candidates for the Pownal select board took up town issues in preparation for the May election at Thursday's candidate forum at the Pownal Elementary School library.
Jason Olansky and Elizabeth Baker are running for the partial two-year term left by Dale Palmer, who died in February. The board had the option to appoint somebody to cover the remainder of Palmer's term, but decided to instead hold an election May 6.
The forum was moderated by Pownal resident David Fowle of the National Cooperative Grocers Association. Prepared questions for the candidates included asking what they thought the most significant issues are that are facing Pownal, what kind of oversight they think selectmen should have over town employees, how they might help to contain the costs of taxes and what they think should be considered in the plans for new town offices.
The candidates agreed that planning a new town office is a high priority because the current space is inefficient and not up to code, and that there should be an open dialogue with the town about how much should be spent and where the office should be located.
Olansky said the most significant issue in the town is augmenting new business to share in the tax burden and finding a purpose for the abandoned race track. Baker said she would like to see an increase in recreational space to create tourism opportunities, increase the connection of town residents, and updating of the town website.
Baker is a Pownal native, widow, grandmother and great-grandmother.
Now retired, Baker previously managed a few small manufacturing and commercial businesses and was a bookkeeper for the Shaftsbury and Pownal schools in her career. She has served as secretary, member, auditor and chair to the select board in previous years.
"It is my belief that you need a strong infrastructure to attain the goals set forth in the town plan," Baker said. "Putting in place strict policies and procedures is the beginning of weaving a strong community. I also believe in transparency and accountability of public officials we need to bring Pownal into the 21st Century, supporting energy efficiency, recycling and composting while maintaining environmentally sound development. I would bring organizational, management and financial skills to the board if I am elected."
Olanksy has been a resident of Pownal for 18 years and employed by Bennington's Water Resources Department for 22 years. He served as a firefighter for 25 years, both in Bennington and as assistant fire chief in Pownal.
Olansky also served on the Pownal planning commission and operates a small farm. He said these experiences have given him knowledge of town development, roads and town-wide workplace safety.
"These have helped me in my ability to reach compromises and bring groups to consensus," Olansky said in his prepared statement. "I have a very good understanding of budgets and their processes ... I am concerned as much as everybody else about the cost of our taxes. From a small business owner as well as a concerned resident and parent, I would like to become part of making Pownal more positive in moving forward. I would like to be a part of changing the perception of Pownal's local town government I believe with a teamwork approach we can all make Pownal more efficient."
The forum will re-air several times on CAT-TV prior to the May 6 election. See the broadcast schedule at www.catamountaccess.com/whats-on/channel-17/