SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Four candidates are on the ballot for two seats on the Board of Selectmen at the May 2 town election.
Incumbent Lydia Goetze, former Selectman Ralph Dunbar, Jesse Dunbar and Ryan Donahue are seeking the two open seats. Selectmen Tom Benson, who has been serving as board chairman, is not seeking another term.
Polls are open in the fire station meeting room from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Two School Committee seats and a seat on the High School Board of Trustees also are on the ballot and uncontested. Incumbents Ingrid Wilbur Kachmar and Jim Sawyer are seeking another term on the School Committee. Wilbur Kachmar is the candidate for trustee.
Lydia Goetze is seeking her second three-year term on the Board of Selectmen. She previously served on the comprehensive plan committee, helping to develop the updated plan adopted by voters in 2010.
Goetze acknowledged that “it takes a little while to learn the ropes” and said she is eager to begin another term with three years of experience behind her.
Goetze said her strength in long-range planning would be a valuable asset as the board deals with a sizable list of infrastructure needs. Those needs include replacing aging water and sewer lines, improving drainage and repairing roads. Addressing these needs will require time and money.
Although grants should be pursued where available, the taxpayers ultimately will bear the cost of the infrastructure improvements and other needs of the town. The expenditures must be balanced with the need to keep the tax rate under control, Goetze said.
“You have to have priorities,” she said. “You get those priorities from the comprehensive plan and the Olver report.”
In 2011, the engineering firm Olver Associates prepared a report identifying upgrades needed to the infrastructure and outlining a phased approach to addressing the problems.
Goetze is the board’s liaison to the Harbor Committee and attends meetings of the advisory Harbor Planning Committee. It is important to develop long-range plans for the harbor and related town facilities, and that includes the purchase of the Hook property next to the Manset Town Dock or other strategic properties near the waterfront, she said.
Ralph Dunbar was on the Board of Selectmen for two three-year terms. He mounted an unsuccessful run for a third term at the 2014 election. He is a foreman at Northeast Harbor Plumbing and Heating in Northeast Harbor.
“When I got done, I felt I still had more to bring to the board,” Dunbar said. “I always had running again in the back of my mind.”
One goal, he said, is to preserve the character of the town.
“As a whole, Southwest Harbor is a vibrant year-round community, and I think people would like to see it stay that way,” he said.
Accomplishing that means keeping property tax increases to a minimum.
“For the six years I was on the board, we held the line on taxes,” Dunbar said, adding that attitude has continued to be a priority with the current board.
Dunbar said the mooring plan for the harbor should be implemented to increase revenue, and the purchase of the Hook property should be pursued. The Knote property is another matter. The original proposal to develop the lot for paid parking at the Manset Town Dock is not cost-effective, he explained; the revenue generated would make recovering the development costs a long-term proposition.
Dunbar, noting the 20-year infrastructure plan developed by Olver, said he prefers to address immediate needs instead of taking on new projects.
“Let’s take care of what we have before going after other things,” he said.
There is one new project Dunbar said he would like to see go through. Construction of a small building on Goog’s Pond to house the Southwest Harbor Historical Society has been proposed and “would be a great thing,” he said.
Jesse Dunbar is making his second bid for a seat on the Board of Selectmen. He ran last year, losing by two votes to Chad Terry. He has been on the Planning Board for one year and the Warrant Committee for three.
Dunbar, no relation to Ralph, is an associate broker at L.S. Robinson in Southwest Harbor. He and his wife, Jennifer, are expecting their first child.
Dunbar, who grew up in Southwest Harbor, said his bid for selectman arose from his tenure on the Warrant Committee.
“I became more interested in how the town works,” he said.
One concern Dunbar said he has been hearing from residents is keeping property taxes under control. That is a key in maintaining a diverse economy.
“One of the biggest issues is keeping the town year-round, not just for summer residents,” he said.
Like the others, Dunbar stresses that long-range planning is needed to address the cost of infrastructure upgrades, and grants should be pursued.
Acquisition of property on the waterfront is important, Dunbar said.
“We’ve talked about the Hook property for years,” he said.
Dunbar said he is interested in the future of education on the island, including any plans the school system might have for some type of consolidation.
“I’d like to be involved in the discussion about what to do,” he said.
Ryan Donahue is making his first bid for selectman. He is a 10-year veteran of the Planning Board and has served on the Warrant Committee for the past three years. He is a member of the advisory Harbor Planning Committee.
Donahue and his wife, Maria, have two sons, both of whom attend the Pemetic Elementary School. The couple owns Ocean House Boat Storage.
Donahue said working on various issues at the committee level led to his decision to seek a seat on the Board of Selectmen.
“It’s given me a fairly well-rounded perspective of the members of our community and some of the needs of our community,” he said.
Donahue said he is satisfied with the course the town is on.
“I feel the town has gone in the right direction in the last six years,” he said. “The spending seems to be warranted for what we’re doing.”
Still, it’s important “to take stock and see what needs to be accomplished,” he added.
Donahue said his biggest concern is maintaining the year-round nature of the town.
“I don’t want Southwest Harbor to struggle to come back,” he said, citing attempts to revive downtown Northeast Harbor.
Achieving that goal means encouraging more young people to move into town and supporting small business growth.
“I feel we have a good base for families to come into,” Donahue said.
Donahue said he is aware of the key role the harbor plays in the town.
“We’ve all found that Southwest Harbor would be nothing without its harbor,” he said.
Adding moorings to accommodate those on the waiting list, more space for dinghies and increasing parking all should be pursued to ensure the future of the harbor, Donahue said.
Overall, Donahue said, “I see my role as continuing to make Southwest Harbor fiscally responsible for its infrastructure and to encourage small businesses.”