By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BELMONT — With the late entry of write-in candidate Kevin Sturgeon, the race for one open three-year term as selectman has expanded to four candidates – all of whom were on hand for a candidates night held earlier this week.
The names voters will see on the March 8 ballot are Jim Spiller, a retired Navy veteran with quality control experience in the private section, George Condodemetraky, a retired engineer who founded two businesses he has since passed on to his three sons who are also engineers, and incumbent Jon Pike, a local business owner who was born and raised in Belmont and who has served for six years as selectman and on many others on various town boards including the Planning Board. Pike was also involved in the development and planning of the automotive program at the Huot Technical School in Laconia.
While most of the candidates tried to tell the 35 voters who came to the forum why they wanted to be elected for a term that begins after the election, Condodemetracky, who in recent years has run every year for the office but has been defeated, kept bringing the conversation back to the aquifer, regardless of what was asked of him. In the past, Condodemetraky has served two separate terms as selectman, served on the conservation commission, and was an engineer with the state during the planning and construction of the Winnipesaukee Basin Project. He has also served on the School Board and the Sewer Commission.
As for the aquifer, neither Sturgeon, Pike or Spiller support eliminating the expansion of industrial uses over the aquifer, as does Condodemetraky.
Sturgeon and Pike are avid supporters of pressuring the department of transportation to widen and resurface Route 140 from the Northfield line through to Route 106 because they believe the greatest threat to the aquifer comes from trucks going off the road and spilling their cargo and or diesel fuel.
Sturgeon, who owns undeveloped industrial property along Route 140, said that if Article 2 passes it will prevent further development along that strip and the first thing he will do is apply to the town for a rebate of his property taxes and a reassessment going forward.
Pike said that passing the aquifer ordinance has the potential to cost the town a lot of money in tax rebates initially and will severely hamper the ability of the economic viability of the town moving forward.
Spiller said that his primary reason for running is to bring a new set of eyes to the selectboard. He noted that Pike suggested he run a few years ago but didn't realize he would be running against him.
He said he didn't agree with much of what Condodemetraky said while noting he lives in Solar Village, which was designed by him. But, like Condodemetraky, he also said he doesn't think the role of selectman should be a "semi-permanent position."
"Resentments build and personalities clash," Spiller said, promising that if elected he would serve one term and be done.
Spiller said that the Belmont Mill is a "very historical building" and he wants to find a creative solution for rehabbing and using it. As to the former Northway Bank Building, he said the town needs to find a use for it like the mill because the longer they sit, the more they decay.
Last year, Pike was one of three selectmen who presented a $3.3 million renovation package that would have repaired the floor on the fourth floor and converted the mill into 17,000 square feet of office space for the town's use. Condodemetraky opposed the measure.
The warrant article failed by about a 3-to-1 vote.
Aside from pushing the state Department of Transportation to widen and pave Route 140, Sturgeon said one of his goals if elected selectman is to try to get more young people involved in the community by running for board positions and serving on public committees in town.
He feels that passing the petitioned Warrant Article 2 on the this year's ballot would change the entire economic structure of Belmont.
Pike said he is running for a third term because under the direction of the current board, the town has cultivated some very good committees and employees.
He spoke extensively about the Tri-Town Aquifer agreement between Belmont, Northfield and Tilton and that at the most recent meeting, the most informed person in the room was the Belmont town planner.
He noted that Casella Waste Systems recently upgraded its existing facility and sent out 28 abutter notices but nobody showed at the hearing. He said if Article 2 passes, it would have a "tremendous impact" on Belmont, noting that the Belmont industrial zone is near to the interstate and that's where many companies want to be for trucking and efficiency purposes.
"We have had some businesses come in and we need to generate a tax base," he said. "Spill contamination is far scarier that business."
He noted that Tilton complains but since they have already built up their portion of Route 3 near the interstate now is when they want "to cry wolf." He also said that Northfield just put a sewer company next the the wellheads they use for potable water for their community.
He said the EPA and the DES both carefully monitor all of the industrial businesses along that section of road and the town has agreed to increase the level of inspection along the corridor to its highest possible inspection rate.
Pike also said the first three years as a selectman is a learning curve because there is so much procedure to learn. He said he agrees that people should hold on to officer for ever but said some level on continuity on a board is wise.
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