Christopher G. Smith challenges two Hatfield incumbents, Marcus J. Boyle and Stanley Pitchko
HATFIELD — Hatfield voters will settle two contested seats on the annual town election ballot Tuesday.
Incumbent Selectman Marcus J. Boyle is seeking a third, three-year term on the Select Board and Assessor Stanley Pitchko is hoping to win a second three-year term on the Board of Assessors.
Challenging both incumbents is Christopher G. Smith of 17 Prospect St. Assistant Town Clerk Edwina Palmisano said there are no regulations preventing one individual from serving on more than one town board.
A former assessor, Smith is the owner of Hatfield Printing on Prospect Street. He serves as a member of the Energy Committee and was previously on the Board of Assessors from 1996 to 2012, when he was unseated by Larry E. Williams.
Smith says he is running on a platform of lowering taxes and shrinking government.
He cites the increase in property taxes from $10.47 per $1,000 in 2012 to the current rate of $12.30 per $1,000 as unnecessary.
“This jump in the tax rate just doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Smith said. “And next year taxes will go up again.”
Smith also says he is concerned about the number of times the Board of Assessors has entered into executive session, and faults Pitchko for that.
“In the 16 years that I was an assessor, everything we did was transparent,” Smith said. “If I am elected, I would call for an independent audit of the assessors office,” he said.
Pitchko maintains that Smith’s accusations are without merit and calling his statements “mudslinging.”
“The Board of Assessors is audited every year by the state. I invite anyone to come to our meetings to see how the assessors do business,” Pitchko said. “It is a very transparent process.”
Pitchko said executive sessions are used to protect the privacy of homeowners when personal matters may be part of the conversation. “Once we come out of executive session, the voting is public, and anyone can always get access to that information,” Pitchko said.
If re-elected, Pitchko said he plans to continue to “operate with honesty, openness and a willingness to have respectful discussions with people regarding their assessments.” In his bid for a seat on the Select Board, Smith says that shrinking municipal government will help to insure lower departmental budgets and lower taxes. “I don’t get the feeling that the selectmen understand that there is a large part of the population in Hatfield on fixed incomes,” Smith said. “They are spending a lot of money on projects without long-term planning, and no regard for energy efficiency. To me that is a failure of leadership.”
Boyle, a retired colonel who served 28 years in the U.S. Air Force, has served six years on the Select Board and also represents Hatfield on the Hampshire Council of Governments.
Boyle said that the Select Board has been fully supportive of energy-saving strategies, solar power and other clean energy initiatives.
He noted that improving the town’s infrastructure, upgrading water and sewer lines and renovating buildings such as the Town Hall are necessary projects, and all were approved by the voters at Town Meeting.
“Hatfield is a very fiscally responsible community. We have the second-lowest tax rate of any city or town in Hampshire County,” said Boyle. “Remember, taxes depend on what services you provide, what projects you undertake and how you finance those things. That is all determined by the voters at Town Meeting, not by the selectmen.”
Boyle says he is committed to keeping and building good working relationships among boards and committees and promoting a “team environment” in town government.
“Essentially the question is: Who do you trust?” Boyle said. “My opponent and I are both known quantities in town. When you look at our backgrounds, experience and our records, who do you trust to lead Hatfield into the future?” Elections take place Tuesday at Memorial Town Hall with polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.