By Anne O'Connor
PEPPERELL -- Candidates for town offices had a chance to express their reasons for running and state their positions on areas of concern for town residents.
Two races are contested, one seat on the the Board of Selectmen and another on the Board of Health.
A candidates night was hosted by the Senior Center on April 22.
Alfred Buckley and Michelle Gallagher are running for the selectman's seat currently held by Joe Sergi. Both are currently on town boards; Buckley is on the Board of Health and Gallagher is on the Personnel Board.
The two were questioned about their positions on the future of buildings and land, the possibility of building a new high school, and how to attract new business to town while maintaining natural resources.
If the town does not change the zoning for the Peter Fitzpatrick school it will be stuck with an albatross, Buckley said. It cannot be reopened as a school because it is obsolete and the town will be forced to maintain it.
The school might need to be reopened, Gallagher said. "Where will students go when a new high school is being built?" She wanted more information and a look at the bigger picture before making a decision.
A new high school is a possibility both candidates were ready to accept. "I would welcome a new high school," Gallagher said.
A committee is looking at whether to rebuild or build new. "That's going to be a bummer either way," Buckley said, "That's out of the selectmen's hands. It's run by a school committee elected by you."
Neither candidate saw an immediate use for the lot where the former paper mill was torn down. The eight-acre parcel was a fire hazard and had to be removed, Buckley said. Because of restrictions of building close to the river and the ledge covering the lot, it could be years before anyone has deep enough pockets to develop the land.
It remains to be seen what can happen with the lot, Gallagher said. "Because the property is privately owned, I'd leave it up to the person who buys it to come up with something, she said.
The town is not far from the highway and needs to market itself better to bring new business in, she said. Agricultural businesses can also play a part in growth.
The town needs to grow but zoning changes to encourage new business need to be done gradually, Buckley said. "People are always against businesses moving in their town," he said. The natural resources like the Nissitissit and Nashua rivers need to continue to be protected.
Buckley is also defending his seat on the Board of Health against Virginia Malouin, a former member of the board. She gave several reasons why she wants to return to what she called the most important board in town.
Buckley countered many of the reasons Malouin gave. She is qualified as a registered nurse. He is qualified because he is a plumber and deals with health codes.
He missed meetings over the last year and a half because his in-laws were sick and dying in Florida, he said in response to her opening statement. He missed other meetings to attend school committee meetings for Nashoba Valley Technical High School where he has been a member for 20 years and is currently the vice-chairman. He said he planned his absences and did not miss meetings with important items.
Malouin questioned the board's decision to not broadcast meetings. That decision was made so people would not be embarrassed by allegations brought against them by others, Buckley said. "We talk to a lot of people that come in with neighborhood problems."
Complaints do not always have to come before the board, Malouin said, "The health agent can visit the parties."
Buckley did not address Malouin's statement that two of the three summer camps in town were not inspected.
Candidates for unopposed seats present included Michael Coffey, Board of Assessors; Donna Franzek, Housing Authority; Ramona Reed, Board of Library Trustees; Joseph Helfter, Planning Board; Gregory Rice, Board of Public Works and Brendon McNabb, Recreation Commission and Jeff Sauer, Town Clerk.