EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 30, 2013

West District: Candidates' Q&A

By Brian Messenger
bmessenger@eagletribune.com

---- — About the West District Candidates

Sean Fountain*

Age: 41

Address: 1 Pelham St.

Occupation: Firefighter/EMT, North Andover Fire Department

Education: Northern Essex Community College

Personal: Single parent

Why should people vote for you?

I'm a voice of the residents of Methuen. My strong work ethic has been demonstrated throughout my first term. I have a proven record of getting results and answers for my constituents, no matter how big or small the issue. I work for the people. Questions asked. Results are produced.

What's the biggest issue facing your district? Why?

The biggest issue facing the district is the drug and related crime problems. Drug activity and increasing crime is a constant battle. We need to keep our residents safe and aware, provide the police with the resources to combat the problem, and provide programs for those in need.

What specific aspect of city government will you work to improve?

Youth services. We need a youth or recreation center for our children. There's a need for services that is not being met. A community of this size needs a place for our children to go after school and have a variety of services and programs to assist in their development.

Which, if any, city services should be privatized? Why or why not?

We need to consolidate more city and school services. IT is one area that should be consolidated/privatized if implemented properly. We privatized legal services and have seen cost savings to date. We need to look at more consolidation for purchasing citywide. The transfer station needs assessment for the future.

How would you rate the current council's performance? How would you improve it?

I believe the current council has accomplished a lot and has built up the reserves/stabilization fund. These were drained by the last council and we implemented means to get them back on track. Many councilors proposed resolutions and ordinances that are now in effect. A lot has been accomplished.

 

George Kazanjian

Age: 65

Address: 55 Sevoian Drive

Occupation: Accountant, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Education: Bachelor of Science degree

Personal: Wife Cynthia Hatem Kazanjian, daughter Ashley Hashem, son-in-law Atty. Saba Hashem, grandson Cole

Why should people vote for you?

The people should vote for me because I will work for Methuen's families. I believe in Methuen. I have the financial expertise, the education, the can-do attitude and the ability to find solutions through collaboration. I possess the experience and temperament to make a difference for Methuen.

What's the biggest issue facing your district? Why?

From going door to door throughout the West District, I know residents want needed services with minimal impact on their taxes. The services need to be effective and efficient and must be provided at an affordable cost. Increasing Methuen's tax base will provide tax relief to residents while increasing revenues.

What specific aspect of city government will you work to improve?

Economic Development. Economic Development is about long-term investment in the city of Methuen. Adding a strong commercial base lifts the tax burden off the backs of the people, and ultimately all citizens win. This is why our Community Development director should not also be the part-time health director.

Which, if any, city services should be privatized? Why or why not?

The Information Technology (IT) should be privatized because it will save Methuen residents hundreds of thousands of dollars. We should consider consolidating the school department technological services with the city. With consolidation, the dollar savings for the city would even be greater.

How would you rate the current council's performance? How would you improve it?

The current council is broken. I would improve it by putting Methuen's residents first. Personalities cannot interfere with the City Council process. The new council must work together for the best interest of Methuen. I have the proven ability to build consensus, combined with the needed skills and experience.

 

Kenneth R. Willette, Jr.

Age: 39

Address: 2 Canobieola Road

Occupation: Staff Director, Office of State Representative John V. Fernandes, D-Milford

Education: Bachelor's degree, Political Science, Bradford College; Master's degree, Political Science, Suffolk University

Personal: Wife, Dawn; Children, Brady and Kendall; Public and charitable Service: Councilor-at-large, six years; Methuen School Committee, six years; Chairman, Methuen Commission on Disabilities, six years; Methuen Public Safety Commission member, two years; Methuen Exchange Club president, two terms; Methuen Exchange Club secretary, four terms

Why should people vote for you?

I have consistently maintained a fiscal conservative voting record. I'm the only candidate in this race who has voted against residential property tax increases and successfully fought for balanced budgets without enacting residential tax increases. If elected, I will vote against residential tax increases and wasteful spending my first term.

What's the biggest issue facing your district? Why?

We need to restore basic confidence in government. Over the last two years, elected officials have significantly increased taxes and fees, added new administrative positions and failed to implement structural reform measures (GIC, regional 911 center, IT outsourcing). We have potentially left millions of dollars of savings on the table.

What specific aspect of city government will you work to improve?

Our municipal health care system is simply not sustainable. We have experienced significant deficits in the municipal health care account that directly caused millions of dollars to be drained from Chapter 70, which takes money directly from classrooms. We could save millions of dollars joining the GIC. Residents deserve better.

Which, if any, city services should be privatized? Why or why not?

The IT department should either be consolidated with the school department or outsourced. It remains to be determined whether the outsourcing of the legal department is achieving actual savings. Managerial studies should be approved to locate departmental deficiencies. Attrition in non-public safety positions should be considered.

How would you rate the current council's performance? How would you improve it?

It became apparent that a majority was in an incredible rush to approve a new meals tax, increase the ambulance fee and hike the residential property taxes during a still struggling economy. We need a cooling off period and avoid residential property tax hikes and new administrative personnel approvals.

*Denotes incumbent