Phillipston Town Election to decide next Selectboard member

Sweat

Sweat FILE PHOTO BY GREG VINE

Gough

Gough FILE PHOTO BY GREG VINE

Phillipston Town Hall

Phillipston Town Hall FILE PHOTO

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 05-14-2024 5:00 PM

PHILLIPSTON – In next Monday’s Annual Town Election, voters will choose the next member of the Selectboard and a Proposition 2 ½ override aimed at handling the town’s expenses.

The race for Selectboard between candidates Nicole Gough and Earl Sweat is to fill the year remaining on the unexpired term of former member Dan Sanden, who resigned earlier this year. The $175,000 Proposition 2 ½ override will help cover the town’s expenses for the approaching fiscal year.

Aside from the Selectboard race, candidates for all other elective offices – mostly incumbents – won’t face any opposition.

While a resident of Phillipston for the past 14 years, Gough is a newcomer to town politics. In an April interview with the Athol Daily News, the native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, said politics is something she’s always been interested in.

“I have a deep love for politics,” she said. “I have a deep love of history passed down to me by family.”

Gough said the vacancy on the Selectboard “really made me interested in serving my community and being interested in how our community is run by the local leadership in our towns and cities…I think we need some new ideas, and I want to focus on getting more people involved in the community. We need more people to be active. We need more ways to get more people excited and want to participate.”

Sweat, who grew up in Winchester, New Hampshire, moved to Phillipston in the late 1990s after accepting a job in Gardner. He has served on the Board of Assessors since 2022, his first experience in municipal government.

“I’ve been interested in town government since I was a kid,” he said. “My father and grandfather were both selectmen in the town that they grew up in.

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“I think the biggest concern moving forward is finding a way to get more involvement from the residents, whether it’s getting them to show up at meetings, whether it’s establishing a better channel of communication to them.”

In a statement distributed to Phillipston residents, the Selectboard and Finance Committee said the decision to seek the override was not made lightly. The override is needed, said the release, due to an increase in operating expenses for both the town and regional schools.

According to the statement, an override of $175,000 would add 52 cents per every $1,000 of valuation. A home valued at $450,000 would see an increase of $234 per year on the property tax bill.

“The town’s recurring expenses are outweighing our recurring revenues,” the statement read. “Using one-time revenue from free cash or the stabilization fund to balance the budget is not possible or prudent as the funds will quickly become exhausted, and the town will lose its good financial standing.”

At a recent Town Meeting, voters reduced the proposed $2.8 million FY25 budget by eliminating the position of building maintenance/groundskeeper, saving $35,000, and cutting the administrative assistant’s salary by $12,879. If the override fails, the cuts voted at Town Meeting will remain in place.

Candidates running unopposed next Monday include:

■Bernie Malouin, Board of Selectmen, three years

■David Manty, Board of Assessors, three years

■Karissa Moore, Board of Health, three years

■Steven Burnett, Cemetery Commission, three years

■Fern Stellato, Constable, three years

■Sylvia Haley, Board of Library Trustees, three years

■Tom Specht, Planning Board, five years

■Gordon Moore, Planning Board, two years

■Jared McDonald-Bourbeau, Town Moderator, three years

■Kathryn Buell, Narragansett Regional School Committee, Phillipston, three years

■Jennifer Smith, Narragansett Regional School Committee, Templeton, three years

Positions with no candidate include Cemetery Commission and Narragansett Regional School Committee, Templeton. Specht and Moore are the only non-incumbents, aside from Gough and Sweat, seeking election.

Phillipston’s Annual Town Election will take place on Monday, May 20, from noon-8 p.m. at Phillipston Town Hall.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.