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March 03. 2013 9:58PM

Candidates make their case at Epsom public forum

EPSOM - With the town election rapidly approaching, Epsom candidates made their case to voters at a public forum in the town library Sunday.

Of the three selectmen candidates, only a write-in candidate, Joni Kitson, who previously served as a selectman for five years, was at the forum.

"I think I can be an asset to board," she said in her opening remarks. "I've lived in town all of my life, raised my kids here, gone to schools here. I'm going to continue to live here and plan on it for a long time."

Kitson identified the recommissioning of the old meeting house to be used as Epsom's town offices, a project which the voters approved at a previous town election, as a key issue.

"I would like to see that happen, as the wish of the majority of the voters. I'd like to help get that going," she said.

When asked what work the project specifically required, Kitson didn't have an immediate answer, noting that she had not yet been in the building. She also expressed support for the use of job descriptions and pay scales in the town, noting that such a policy could boost employee retention.

The incumbent selectman, Robert Blodgett, submitted a written statement to be read at the forum.

"I realize we cannot make everyone happy all the time, but we try our best. I have tried to serve the town with compassion and common sense," wrote Blodgett. "I enjoy the position and serve it well. . Every decision I have made has taken a lot of thought. We as a town have to balance our wants and needs to proceed in a positive manner and to maintain a balanced budget."

Blodgett, who has lived in Epsom for 33 years, has been selectman for the past five years.

Tony Soltani, a former state representative whose recent trial for a 2012 incident where he joined a police pursuit resulted in a dismissal of felony charges and a misdemeanor conviction for disorderly conduct, was not present at the forum.

Three candidates for road agent, a two-year position, were present, each making the case for his particular type of experience and debating a few key issues. The incumbent, Gordon Ellis, made a case for continuity.

"I set goals when I first became road agent. The highway department was in deplorable condition. One of the goals was that when I leave office, the next guy that came in could just work on roads," said Ellis. "The roads still need a lot of work. . If we don't have good drainage, we don't have good roads. It's been the way it is since they have been building roads, for thousands of years."

Michael Tinsley, an Epsom resident since 2007 with 18 years of construction and road experience in the private sector, emphasized technology, particularly computerized record keeping, describing the upgrade as "absolutely crucial to bring the highway department into the 21st century."

"This is will help me and the board of selectmen liaison get a good picture of what's going on, and analyze and manage efficiently," he said. "My goal is to be transparent. There's a lot of money that goes into the highway department. There's no reason that everything's not right there and easy to access and easy to get a hold of."

The write-in candidate, Epsom native Scott Elliott, touted his 29 years of experience building and maintaining roads.

"I've been doing this since I was 18 years old," he said. "I think I could do a great job for you folks. I have the knowledge and experience as well as the drive to do it."

Elliott also called computerizing records one of his biggest plans, noting that the state would assist in the implementation. Elliott laid more emphasis, however, on the planning capabilities of computerized records.

"A good agent is going to have a master plan," he said. "He's going to know what road he's going to work on in 10 years, and that's where these programs come in handy."

On the question of technology, Ellis was notably disinterested. Praising the town's current record keeping, he countered that computerized records would not be "any more or any less transparent."

"It might be handy on a rainy day to play on the computer, but we're busy every day," he said.

The Epsom town election will be held March 12 at the Epsom Central School on 282 Black Hall Road. The polls will be open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.

bclogston@newstote.com


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