Taxes, farms among issues tackled by North Stonington candidates at debate

North Stonington first selectman candidates Asa Palmer, second from left, and Mike Urgo shake hands after a debate, with selectman candidates Robert Carlson, left, and Nita Kincaid, right, at Wheeler Library on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2017.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
North Stonington first selectman candidates Asa Palmer, second from left, and Mike Urgo shake hands after a debate, with selectman candidates Robert Carlson, left, and Nita Kincaid, right, at Wheeler Library on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

North Stonington — Among selectman and first selectman candidates in North Stonington, there is frustration that the state has been fiscally unfair to the town and that, as a result, rising taxes are a concern.

But the extent to which the candidates feel fed up varies.

Republican first selectman candidate Asa Palmer, 22, has signs around town reading, “Had enough? I have!” He clarified that he’s had enough of watching people get taxed out of their homes and of people not taking “fast enough action to account for the impending state cuts.”

But his opponent — Michael Urgo, who is unaffiliated — feels the town is making progress.

“I feel like we are doing a good job here,” said Urgo, 40. “I’m running for the first selectman of North Stonington, not first selectman of Hartford.”

They shared views with a crowd packed into Wheeler Library for a forum on Wednesday evening, moderated by Paul Choiniere, editorial page editor of The Day. Also participating were selectmen candidates Bob Carlson and Nita Kincaid, the only two candidates for the two seats Nicholas Mullane II and Mark Donahue are vacating.

Palmer, who admitted his nervousness led him to draw a blank a couple times, stressed his concern with tax increases. He believes that with increased efficiencies and drawing in more students from out of district, the tax increase could be kept at 1.5 mills in the short term, not accounting for state cuts.

None of the four candidates would commit to not raising taxes.

Questioned about ways to consolidate to save tax dollars, Carlson suggested going to neighboring towns — like Preston, Voluntown and Ledyard — to share school or highway services.

All of the candidates except Palmer expressed agreement with hiring a finance and administration officer, on the basis that increased efficiencies would more than make up for the position cost.

“I think we’re literally growing the size of government faster than we’re bringing in revenue, and I don’t like that,” he said.

The forum also included discussion of development on Route 2, and of how candidates plan to promote and protect farms. Kincaid stressed that it’s important to grow new kinds of farms, like Terra Firma Farm, a community farm that provides educational programming for children.

Asked about the importance of age and experience, Palmer responded, “I don’t think we’re in the era of age and experience; I think we’re in the age of knowledge and information.”

Urgo said that while anyone with talent should be able to do the job at any age, he feels his experience serving on the Board of Finance and as chairman of the Ad Hoc School Building Committee is helpful.

The forum concluded with the candidates being asked to name a political leader they admire. Palmer went with former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons; Urgo cited U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and North Stonington First Selectman Shawn Murphy; Carlson named state Sen. Heather Somers, and Kincaid went with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney.

e.moser@theday.com

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