Michael G. Heylin, candidate for the Falmouth Board of Selectmen, is calling for more open and transparent management of the town.
“I try to be as open as possible,” Mr. Heylin said. “We don’t have to agree, but we should work together toward a common goal.”
While selectmen offer a public comment period during their meetings, he said, members of the public are not comfortable coming forward to speak. Citing his own experience, he said he called incumbent Selectman Samuel H. Patterson a lunatic after Mr. Patterson shouted at him during a December meeting.
“If somebody in town—a taxpayer, a resident or a business—says they have an issue, a select person should be able to take it in and listen,” Mr. Heylin said. “They can debate, but they shouldn’t yell at someone like they’re a child. A lot of people won’t go there, which is why they call upon and ask me. A lot of people are afraid to go to a place where they get yelled at for speaking their opinion.”
If elected, he said, he will continue to be the voice for those afraid to speak up. He said people have a reason to speak up, as the town has not been transparent regarding several matters. He cited Gosnold’s plans to develop an expanded treatment center on Jones Road, the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod’s efforts to open an office with a syringe exchange on East Falmouth Highway, and the storage of asbestos cement pipes near the Long Pond watershed as recent examples.
“There have been a lot of things that have happened over the past year or so, with some miscues by the board of selectmen and town manager,” Mr. Heylin said, adding people in town are tired of the board’s business-as-usual mentality.
He said the proposed Proposition 2½ override, which asks for $971,507 to fund the hiring of eight additional firefighters, demonstrates this mismanagement.
“It goes back to short-staffing at the fire department, which should have been dealt with years ago, along with the short-staffing at the police department,” Mr. Heylin said. “It has to be staffed, but this would not have been an override issue if it had been managed correctly years ago.”
He said the fire department should be fully staffed not only to protect the citizens of town, but first responders as well.
“They are putting our workers, the firefighters and the police, at risk with the departments being short staffed,” he continued. “The chiefs are doing a great job with what they have, but we should be staffing them fully.”
The coronavirus will make this even more challenging. In addition to being a public health crisis, the pandemic will have a fiscal impact that could further the town’s staffing issues.
“I don’t know if our departments can handle staffing cuts or people not working overtime,” Mr. Heylin said. “We are already bare bones as it is.”
He said town employees need a person they can talk to without being afraid of repercussions. Citing the storage of asbestos cement pipes, he said town employees had to handle those pipes without being provided the proper personal protective equipment. They should have had someone to turn to, he said.
“There has to be oversight, and there should be oversight of the department heads, the town manager and the select people,” Mr. Heylin said.
He said the town can also better manage its need for additional affordable housing units, arguing the town needs to promote affordable homes rather than apartments.
“You are not going to get families into a one-bedroom apartment,” Mr. Heylin said. “If the goal is to just do affordable housing to do it, that’s something, but the goal should be building a community and bringing families here. Building one-bedroom apartments and studios makes no sense to me. Let’s push affordable housing toward families who can live here, work here and send their kids to school here.”
Mr. Heylin, who previously ran for the planning board, said his track record is proven; he served as a member of the recreation committee. He highlighted his involvement in numerous town projects, including the new Falmouth Senior Center and the artificial turf field at Falmouth High School.
“Those parts of our town, the elderly and the youth, can get overlooked sometimes, and I helped push those through,” Mr. Heylin said.
Citing the 2017 Athletic Field Master Plan by Gale Associates, he said the town needs either nine new natural grass fields or three artificial turf fields to support current usage. One artificial turf field at the high school is a start, he said.
“The select people were slow to act, but the recreation committee pushed it, and we got a field at the high school,” he said. “I’d like to have more fields.”