HARWICH — Some clear differences emerged between the three candidates running for the one seat on the board of selectmen in the voter information committee's candidates forum last week. Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to choose whether Ed McManus, Steven Scannell or Thomas Sherry will win the three-year term.
Approximately 50 people attended the forum moderated by Florence Seldin of the League of Women Voters of Cape Cod. Seldin presented the candidates with questions provided by audience members.
In his opening statement, Sherry said he is running because he is tired of what's happening in town and there is a need for change. He cited a dissatisfaction with cost overruns in large projects and promised “availability and accountability” if elected.
McManus noted his experience and commitment to community, having served as a selectman and on several boards and committees over a 17-year period. The former selectman cited his oversight of several large community project, which included town meeting bids. The Monomoy Regional High School building project, which he co-chaired, came “under cost and on time.”
Scannell made clear his commitment to a focus on the marine environment, fisheries and an improved economy through maritime farming projects. He said a few decades ago Saquatucket Harbor was the number one lobster landing port on the East Coast.
When asked about specific areas each of the candidates would focus on, Scannell emphasized combining the snack shack project at Saquatucket Harbor with a marine education program for students and the return of a marine fisheries program at Cape Tech.
Sherry said the East Harwich fire station is a long time in coming and praised the job the department has done in developing the project. “It's a big number, but a real number and the station is needed,” Sherry said.
Referring to the big-ticket item on the warrant – the wastewater system – McManus said in another community he had the experience of rebuilding a sewer system, adding that can run into hiccups. He said there is a need to improve economic development, pointing out he serves on the board of directors of Outer Cape Health Services, Inc., which has placed its administrative offices in the former Thompson's Market and will begin this month developing a medical center there.
Responding to the crematorium article in the annual warrant, Scannell said the town should not be cremating pets. He said the town needs to take another look at it. He called himself a Libertarian, a conservative and is against the project because of its impact on private businesses. He suggested considering burial at sea or composting.
It has gotten out of hand, Sherry said of the proposal, growing beyond the town meeting decision to provide town land for a pet burial ground. He said the town never authorized money for the cemetery. He questioned where the funding would come from for the crematorium and he also said private industry is doing a great job providing that service.
McManus pointed out he raised questions as a member of the finance committee. The finance committee has altered its vote of support, recommending instead indefinite postponement until questions can be answered.
Should the use of a $1 million Seaport Economic Council grant for the landside project at Saquatucket Harbor be used for additional work there or to offset the cost of the project to taxpayers? Sherry said the funds should be returned to the taxpayers. A similar grant for the waterside project offset the $7 million cost of the project, he said.
Marina revenues offset the majority of the costs and will not have a major impact on taxpayers, McManus said. He cited his service on a Massachusetts Municipal Association committee through which he lobbied for the SEC grant for the landside project.
Scannell called Saquatucket Harbor a going concern, adding it brings in a lot of money. The candidate said he sees the area with two herring runs, along Andrews River and Carding Machine Brook, and a park, improving the overall facilities. He also suggested using the harbor maintenance building on Bank Street as a location to teach kids how to build boats.
Candidates were what cooperative opportunities they support similar to the wastewater agreement with Chatham. Scannell spoke out against large wastewater treatment plants, saying they are “a killer of Mother Nature.” He emphasized the need for bio-treatment of wastewater.
Sherry cited the regional school district as a good partnership and said the new Cape Tech will benefit many communities. Regional sewerage treatment is a financial benefit and suggested more mutual aid and public safety sharing. He even suggested trading off on snow plowing when possible.
Sharing in wastewater projects such as the Dennis, Yarmouth and Harwich proposal for a treatment plant was supported by McManus. He pointed out there are 225,000 residents on the Cape and questioned why there need to be separate entities in each community. McManus said the town wanted to regionalize the East Harwich fire station, but Brewster and Chatham wanted their own facilities.
McManus also said a proposal to establish an affordable housing trust would be a major benefit in developing affordable housing. There is a need for an agency to examine land use, work with developers and utilize funding in an equitable way, he said.
Scannell also urged support for the article to create the trust. He recommended the town take control of the affordable housing program, instead of federal and state intervention and allowing “cheesy development.”
“Affordable housing is one of my favorite programs,” Sherry said. He said he trains electricians at Upper Cape Tech who move off Cape because they cannot afford to live here. He said there is a need for affordable housing to make those people a viable part of the community. Sherry suggested using the former fire station on Bank Street for affordable housing.
Addressing the four articles relating to the sale of recreational marijuana, McManus noted the state's Cannabis Control Commission can issue four licenses in a town, including retail sale, testing laboratories, manufacturing of products and cultivation. He said a testing lab might be a suitable way of expanding employment in town, but the town proposals would not allow it.
“The proposals throw the baby out with the bath water,” McManus said.
Scannell said he is opposed to the use of drugs with “every fiber of my body.” He said he is against sharing the roadway with people high on marijuana. He said on Oct. 26, 1975 while “high as a kite,” he was arrested for vehicular homicide when involved in an accident on Route 28. Scannell said it was 100 percent his fault, yet he “weaseled out of jail time.” He said he apologized but it was too late.
“We don't need marijuana in Harwich,” Sherry said. He said the town does not need teenage tourists running around in the summertime heading for pot shops.
Pointing out many towns on the Cape have supported safe or sanctuary community status, the candidates were asked to define their position. “Safe communities are a euphemism for breaking the law,” Scannell said. “I do not adhere to scofflaws.” He said he strongly supports President Trump in most positions the president takes. “Safe communities belong in the crematorium,” Scannell added.
“Illegal is illegal,” Sherry said. He said there are right and wrong ways of entering the country, describing how one of his students who came into the country with her mother worked to gain her citizenship. It was a wonderful moment, Sherry said.
“I don't think our town needs to get into sweeps looking for illegal aliens,” McManus said. If federal immigration enforcement officers ask for the town's assistance, he would support providing assistance, but he does not think taxpayers expect the police department to take over enforcement of federal laws when there is so much that has to be done within the community.
In conclusion, McManus stressed his service to the community and the success of large projects while he served on the board of selectmen.
Sherry said voters entrust elected officials to protect their best interests and he would be proud do so.
“I'd be a steady hand on the wheel,” Scannell said, also emphasizing a desire to cultivate sea farms along Nantucket Sound. “Sea farms are the reason I'm running.”
Voters go to the polls on Tuesday, May 15 at the community center from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For detailed candidate profiles, see this week's print edition.