Sunday, December 8, 2013
FAIRFIELD — The three men who are running for two open seats on the Fairfield Town Council have a difference of opinion when it comes to how much funding should go to local nonprofit organizations, including the Police Athletic League.
Richard Letourneau, 44, a Dirigo Engineering employee; Harold Murray, 55, a behavioral specialist at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, and Aaron Rowden, 27, an attorney, are vying for the seats.
Murray, an incumbent, is seeking re-election after serving a three-year term, while the second vacancy was created when Chairwoman Tracey Stevens’ term expired.
The candidates spoke on their approaches to town governance, economic development, and budgeting, which they agreed would include big challenges for Fairfield in the future.
They had differing opinions on funding nonprofit community organizations, expenditures that make up less than 1.5 percent of the town’s total $5.4 million budget, but which tend to generate a lot of discussion among voters.
Voters approved about $80,500 in funding for nonprofit groups that provide services in Fairfield at the annual Town Meeting in May.
About $35,600 of the funding was for the Police Athletic League, which serves children and families from Fairfield, Albion, Benton and Clinton. The organization served about 1,300 children in 2012, nearly half of those coming from Fairfield. The organization’s total budget for that year was about $194,000, half of which comes from funding from the four towns.
Richard Letourneau, works as an inspector on the Summit Natural Gas pipeline as part of a contract between his employer, Dirigo, and the state.
A newcomer to town government, Letourneau said he doesn’t have all the information necessary to weigh in on many nonprofit funding issues, but he does support the athletic league.
“I’m in full support of the PAL,” he said. “That program has been the heart and soul of Fairfield for a lot of time.”
Letourneau said he feels that any money given to the athletic league is spent wisely, and that he would be likely to support an expansion of their services.
Murray, who has lived in Fairfield for 24 years, is vice chairman of the council.
He said the town would be better served by a town department of Parks and Recreation, rather than financially supporting the athletic league.
“I just feel that the sports programs for the kids should be run by the town,” Murray said. One reason Murray said he favored a town department over a nonprofit is that town departments are eligible for state and federal grants that he says could attract more funding to the area.
He said such a major switch would take time and planning to achieve.
“It’s going to be a long, hard road,” he said.
Rowden, who has mounted unsuccessful bids as an independent for the town council and the state legislature, has a law practice and is also the president of the town’s committee for Central Maine CATV, the local public access television station.
Rowden, too, supports the athletic league, which he sees as providing a cost-savings over a town department.
“Fairfield doesn’t have to have a parks and rec department to meet the needs that other towns do, because we have a nonprofit with lots of volunteers or who are paid a small stipend to run baseball games and football camps and things like that,” he said.
Rowden said the Police Athletic League is just one example of many nonprofit groups that get money from the town and improve the community.
At the Town Meeting, voters approved about $23,000 for various nonprofit groups — $3,000 for the Fairfield Historical Society; $5,000 for the Child and Family Services and Transportation program offered by the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program; $6,000 for the Fairfield Interfaith Food Pantry, $1,800 for the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter; $2,500 for Spectrum Generations, $1,500 for the Family Violence Project; $1,250 for the Hospice of Waterville; $100 for the Hospice of Somerset County; $2,000 for Kennebec Behavioral Health.
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