GROTON – Three candidates vying for the Groton Select Board attended the annual Candidates Night on Tuesday, May 4th.
Craig Bennett, Peter Cunningham and Vikram Narayan are all competing to replace incumbent John Giger, who is not seeking re-election.
Bennett is a 49-year-old Groton resident who works in the culinary industry, Cunningham is a 42-year-old resident who previously served on the Select Board for 21 years, and Narayan is a 10-year-old resident practicing anesthesiology is.
The election is on May 25th. There are no other races
All three candidates expressed concern about the property tax burden and expressed a desire to bring new sources of income to the city.
“We are too dependent on property taxes and no longer enough on business. I have a vision that Groton is this very beautiful place that it already is, but fill it up with restaurants and bring these chefs here and make it a place where people look and say, “I want to go that do they have great restaurants, ”said Narayan.
Suggesting the city re-explore recreational marijuana, Cunningham said Ayer had $ 500,000 in revenue from the Gage Cannabis Co. pharmacy in Rt. 110. Cunningham suggested using the 4 Corners area for a pharmacy, which the other candidates agreed to.
Bennett agreed to Narayan to make Groton more business-friendly and Cunningham to re-explore recreational marijuana. He also suggested looking at the future Indian Hill Music Center as an additional source of income.
“We should look at a ticket tax on Indian Hill. If the size of the building is a representation of what is going to happen there, I think a ticket tax would be another source of income that is sure not to be overlooked by many, ”said Bennett.
Cunningham said much of the city’s tax burden comes from not addressing serious infrastructure problems sooner.
“Running the city council is almost like piloting an ocean liner, and you have to make major course corrections early on to make big changes in the future. It’s not that nimble, things take a long time to get done, ”said Cunningham.
With increasing revenues, the three candidates also recognized the need for affordable housing in the city.
Cunningham said he endorsed the recent article on city assemblies, which examines city-owned parcels for affordable housing. He also said that he had read the housing production plan and was familiar with it as a member of the Affordable Housing Partnership. He highlighted a development on Sandy Pond Road now owned by the Housing Authority as an example of the Affordable Housing Trust at work.
Narayan said he supports the construction of affordable housing but wants it to be accessible to public transportation so that he is better equipped to succeed. Bennett expanded Narayn’s argument, adding that the housing should be centrally located in town and convenient to shops, doctor’s offices, and the post office.
All three candidates supported the Florence Roche Elementary School project when asked by an audience if they would support it because they knew that with the known effects of climate change, there was no more natural gas.
Bennett pointed to his support stemming from how little the school had changed since he was a student. Narayan said he trusted the project’s engineers to do the cost-benefit analysis, and Cunningham said the building was lead design, meaning it was designed for high efficiency.
Candidates differed when asked about their support for the Prescott School Community Center. Narayan expressed concern about the cost and its alignment with the use of the center.
“I think in theory it would be great to keep such a historic building and do things for the community, but we have to look at the finances behind it, especially when taxes are increasing every year. I don’t think it’s fiscally responsible, ”Narayan said. “I think we need to look at this. It comes down to the cost and the use, but if you tell me there is a big benefit and the city is using it and it costs a bit, then so be it. “
Bennett said he toured the facility to learn more about the programs and that he also attended the school in the building and that it was a huge win for the community.
“It’s a great way to preserve this building. I went to sixth grade there and it’s a very familiar building from my childhood and I think the programs that are offered there in terms of guitar lessons the Groton Herald is not there, art classes and pottery classes are a huge benefit for not only for Groton, but also for the surrounding towns, ”said Bennett.
Cunningham said the city budget is not influenced by the center and also spoke about the benefits of the center.
“The municipal budget has very little impact. I think it worked well and I think they are to be commended for the programming that they are doing there. In fact, over the past year during the pandemic, their programs were still going on and actually providing respite for people who were kind of cooped up or locked up in their daily lives and giving them a chance, “Cunningham said. “As long as it continues to be an advantage, I think that it is still an advantage, we should keep supporting it.”
In addition, all three candidates expressed a desire to improve the payment instead of the tax process at nonprofits in the city. All three want organizations that offer more to the community. Expressing dissatisfaction with the Groton School, Cunningham said that they abruptly stopped using its facilities and ended a senior swimming program.
Bennett said he would like the process to be handled on a case-by-case basis, and Narayan agreed that an organization that is not for profit doesn’t necessarily mean that it has no money. Cunningham also acknowledged that the law favors nonprofits in these cases.