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October 30, 2013

Challengers in Methuen's West District criticize current council

METHUEN — One challenger says the current City Council is "embarrassing." The other believes councilors are "in over their head." The incumbent is proud of the work the council has completed over the last two years.

On Tuesday, voters in the city's West District will elect two of the three candidates on the ballot. They are incumbent Council Chairman Sean Fountain, former School Committeeman George Kazanjian, and former School Committeeman, councilor-at-large and mayoral candidate Kenneth Willette, Jr.

Current West District Councilor Jeanne Pappalardo, a consistent fiscal conservative during her last six years on the council, will be forced to leave office at the end of the year due to term limits.

Both Kazanjian and Willette are critical of the current council and, if elected, said they will take a hard line against residential property tax increases. Fountain, who is wrapping up his first term on the council, said he has been a vocal leader and boasts a track record of listening to his constituents and getting things done.

"I feel that the current council is effective," said Fountain. "We've made a lot of good decisions and we've made some progress. I feel that I do my job adequately."

Fountain, 41, works as a firefighter in North Andover. During his first term in office, Fountain said the council has increased the city's cash reserves and boosted revenue by raising ambulance rates and instituting a local meals tax.

Fountain believes Methuen needs a youth center. If reelected, Fountain said he will explore grant and private fundraising opportunities in an effort to provide young people with a facility for tutoring, mentoring and sports programs.

"Methuen has nothing for these kids," said Fountain. "We need to step up."

Willette criticized the council for its actions regarding the ambulance rates and meals tax, as well as for raising residential property taxes — which Willette pledged not to do during his first two-year term if he is elected.

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