Three candidates running for the two available three-year seats on the board of selectmen made their cases Wednesday night, April 30, at an election forum at town hall.
Peter Beauchemin, R. Patrick Ellis and Frank Pannorfi answered questions and stated their views at the forum, co-sponsored by the Enterprise Newspapers and Sandwich Community Television. Fifty people attended.
Mr. Beauchemin, 72, of Herring Run is making his first run for the board. Mr. Ellis, 60, who lives on Spring Hill Road, previously served on the board from 1996 to 1999. Mr. Pannorfi, 72, of Wing Boulevard, has been elected three times to the board and is the sole incumbent in the race.
The town election is scheduled from 7 AM to 8 PM next Thursday, May 8.
The same polling places will be used as in last November’s special election, although voters in Precincts 1 and 2, who vote at the Henry T. Wing School, will switch back to the traditional main entrance near Beale Avenue rather than the door closer to the gym.
At Wednesday’s forum, each of the three candidates for selectman were asked why people should vote for him.
Mr. Beauchemin said he is a lifelong resident of the town and vice chairman of the Sandwich Housing Authority. He said he believes he can help the town.
Mr. Ellis, another lifelong resident of the town, said he has experience both as the town’s first director of public works and as an elected selectman. He said he is skilled in day-to-day operations as well as in long-range planning.
Mr. Pannorfi, who said he fell in love with the town as a visitor in 1980 and permanently retired to Sandwich in 1999, said he is a good listener who wants to complete initiatives he has helped plan that are already underway.
The candidates put forward a variety of ideas for what kind of growth they consider good for the town.
Mr. Pannorfi said Sandwich should seek to draw medical, high-tech and back-office businesses and operations that pay good wages.
Given the town’s proximity to Boston, Mr. Pannorfi said Sandwich could attract firms that want to escape that city’s high rents.
Mr. Ellis said the town has been neglecting the economic potential of its marina. He also called for construction of a major hotel on industrial land now along Freezer Road.
He questioned how much potential is offered by development of vacant town land in the so-called “Golden Triangle” in South Sandwich, given the proximity of Mashpee Commons.
Mr. Beauchemin called for the development of an industrial park along the lines of the Falmouth Technology Park, which he said is booming.
Companies in such parks, he said, offer decent wages and employment, and do not put a burden on the taxpayer.
One of the sharpest disagreements of the evening came over the financing of road repairs in town.
Mr. Ellis blasted the plan of the current board of selectmen, which calls for funding repairs in five $1.3 million capital outlays over five years.
Mr. Pannorfi defended the concept, which he said will allow the town to get the work done more quickly without taking on the burden of debt and interest payments.
But Mr. Ellis said the town should use longer-term bonds to fund the work. He said that Sandwich’s failure to do so since the 1996 road bond, which he proposed and advocated, has resulted in deteriorating roads that are getting progressively more costly to repair.
Asked what is the Sandwich brand, Mr. Ellis replied, “Rocky beaches, cold water and high taxes.”
That combination, he said, saved Sandwich from the rampant development that has characterized a number of other Cape towns.
Mr. Beauchemin said the Sandwich brand is a town where people are able to take care of themselves, as well as a place with features that draw people to the town.
Questioned about the future of the Henry T. Wing School, which the school committee intends to close as a school, Mr. Pannorfi said the building has serious drawbacks, including the lack of a sprinkler system and the need to bring numerous aspects up to code.
Mr. Ellis, however, said the building, despite its faults, can offer the town several advantages not available in other buildings, such as a centralized location for town offices.
As for whether the candidates would be willing to work with a new management team for the town, Mr. Beauchemin said the time may have come for change both in the town manager and in the board of selectmen.
Mr. Ellis said he is confident that he could work with any management.
Mr. Pannorfi said he saw no reason to change management, characterizing town manager George H. Dunham as one of the hardest-working people in Sandwich.