South Hadley Select Board hopefuls state their cases; candidates forum Thursday

  • Select Board candidate Scott Moore, 44, owns and operates Bruiser’s BBQ and serves as vice president of the nonprofit Music and Arts South Hadley. Submitted photo

  • South Hadley Select Board candidate Jeffrey Cyr speaks during a candidates forum March 26. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • South Hadley Select Board candidate Bruce Forcier speaks during a candidates forum March 26. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • South Hadley Select Board candidate John Hine speaks during a candidates forum March 26. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Village Commons, South Hadley, Massachusetts Creative Commons/John Phelan

Staff Writer
Published: 4/3/2018 10:14:05 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — With the annual Town Election next week, candidates seeking public office will discuss issues facing their community at a candidate’s night Thursday in Town Hall.

Two of the five Select Board seats are up for election on April 10. Incumbents Bruce Forcier and John Hine are running for re-election against challengers Scott Moore, owner of Bruiser’s BBQ, and Jeffrey Cyr, superintendent of Water Department District No. 1.

“We haven’t seen an election like this in a long time, and my sense is folks are ready for it,” said Carlene Hamlin, the town clerk.

Sponsored by Know Your Town of South Hadley, the candidate’s night event will be held at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall Auditorium. There, candidates for Select Board, School Committee and other positions will present policy statements and answer questions from the audience.

Here are profiles of the Select Board candidates.

Scott Moore

When he ran for Select Board last year against incumbent Sarah Etelman and newcomer Andrea Miles, Scott Moore lost by just 44 votes. He retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after 20 years before moving to South Hadley with his wife, Amy Patruno, and their 6-year-old daughter who attends Plains Elementary School.

“I am definitely the new guy on the block,” said Moore, 44, who grew up in Kentucky. “I’m a fresh face with a new outlook on things, especially not having grown up in South Hadley.”

When he moved to South Hadley in 2012, Moore started his own mobile barbecue business, Bruiser’s BBQ, from a trailer he hauls to different events and festivals. He serves as vice president of the nonprofit Music and Arts South Hadley, which puts on a free one-day music festival in South Hadley Falls every summer.

“We always did more with less, especially in the Marine Corps,” Moore said. “Not getting something done, it was never an option. Everything had to be done on time and come out perfect every time.”

Learning to work with different personality types in the military was an exercise in communication and conflict resolution, Moore said, making him well-suited for an elected position.

“I think there’s a lack of communication amongst and between some committees and the Select Board,” Moore said. “The key to leadership at any level is open-minded communication.”

Maintenance to the town’s existing infrastructure, attracting more businesses and revitalizing South Hadley Falls are priorities for Moore. While he sees a new senior center as an important investment for the town, he is cautious of spending too much on capital projects, especially when taxpayers foot the bill.

“You’ve got to maintain things, you can’t always borrow money,” Moore said. “Just because there’s municipal money doesn’t mean you have to spend it all.”

He thinks the best way out from the money-losing Ledges Golf Course is through a tenant-landlord relationship, and the town only needs to earn from the deal enough to cover the bond and capital projects.

“We’re not in the business of running golf courses,” Moore said.

On the issue of allowing commercial marijuana sales in South Hadley, Moore said he has no strong feelings.

“I can’t say I’m for or against it,” Moore said. “Folks have their concerns about it, but we’ve been nickel-and-dimed on other projects — I don’t think we should throw away an opportunity for South Hadley to get some financial gain from an enterprise that is gaining momentum.”

Jeffrey Cyr

As superintendent of Water Department District No. 1, Select Board candidate Jeffrey Cyr is focused on fiscal responsibility. He sits on the town’s Appropriations and Capital Planning committees, and formerly on committees overseeing the Ledges Golf Course, Plains Elementary School renovations, and the town’s economic development.

“Basically all the knowledge and experiences I’ve had throughout year generated my decision to serve as a member of the Board of Selectmen,” he said.

Cyr, 48, is a South Hadley resident of 43 years, 22 of which he has spent working for Water District No. 1, serving as superintendent since 2002. While he does not believe the town needs any radical changes, he believes his experience and willingness to collaborate will other elected officials would be a boon to the Select Board.

“I want to bring a fresh set of eyes and a fresh set of ideas to the Select Board,” Cyr said.

Revitalizing South Hadley Falls is also a priority for Cyr too.

“I’ve seen quite a bit of change, especially in the Falls,” Cyr said. “Downtown, there used to be drug stores, grocery stores, barber shops. It was like a destination for people to go into town. Now there’s a couple businesses down there but nowhere near what there used to be.”

Fiscal responsibility, keeping taxes low and homes affordable are also on his mind.

“We keep hearing South Hadley is becoming unaffordable, and I don’t like to hear that,” Cyr said. “I want to make sure that everyone can afford to live here.”

When it comes to the new senior center, Cyr sees the project as a priority, but is skeptical of the idea that the town can fund the project without incurring debt or a tax increase. He wants to learn more about the plans and make sure the facility will be a sound investment for years to come.

“I’m hoping it doesn’t negatively impact rest of town. Once we make a commitment to pay we are locked in,” Cyr said. “If this moves forward we have to be sure that the facility is right for all the seniors.”

He does not support the sale of recreational marijuana in town, and feels like the potential tax revenue is not worth risking the increased exposure to children.

John Hine

A Select Board member since 2006 and current vice chairman, John Hine, says he is proud of the progress he and his colleagues have made keeping costs down, balancing budgets and investing in capital projects.

“This is the first time I’ll be in a contested election since my first Select Board race 12 years ago,” Hine said. “From my perspective, I think things are going quite well.”

A Town Meeting member for 34 years, Hine has served on the Personnel Board, School Committee and Planning Board.

“I just feel at this point I have acquired quite a bit of experience and knowledge of municipal government and I’d like to take advantage of that,” Hine said.

When asked about high tax rates, Hine pointed to the recently completed Plains Elementary School and the new public library, asking whether residents think they get value and services from the town for the taxes they are paying.

Minimizing tax increases while still investing in capital projects is the perpetual balancing act Hine believes the town has done successfully in recent years.

“Our financial position is excellent,” Hine said. “We’re going through a budget process and we’re looking at a less than 1 percent increase in the general budget.”

A new program passed at the Town Meeting in January created a rolling debt fund that will help authorize borrowing over a multiyear periods, Hine said. This will help with projects like street and sidewalk repairs, deferred maintenance, athletic field turf and major construction projects.

The Select Board signed a letter to the Massachusetts School Building Authority at a meeting last month stating its intent to renovate or replace the Mosier Elementary School, with the goal of receiving state funding for the project.

Additionally, widespread support for a new senior center is evidence of the need, Hine said.

“There’s a lot of momentum for that and we’re at the stage where we’re doing some preliminary design,” Hine said. “We need to work as hard as we can to do this in a way that we are covering this with municipal expenses.”

In the meantime, Hine is looking forward to seeing the proposals, solicited by Colliers International Golf Course Advisory, from third-party managers to take over the Ledges by the end of April.

“It all comes down to whether we think a proposal has merit,” Hine said. “Hopefully at a minimum they can eliminate our losses.”

Bruce Forcier

A South Hadley resident for 27 years and a professional pharmacist, Bruce Forcier, 61, hopes to continue his work on the Select Board after winning the seat unopposed in 2015.

“On the forefront of my campaign is my community involvement,” Forcier said. “I think we’re heading in a positive direction and I would like to continue to serve on the Select Board.”

Soon after moving to South Hadley, Forcier joined Friends of Buttery Brook Park, helping to turn the Friday Cruise Night into one of the organization’s biggest fundraisers. Today, he serves as vice president of the association in addition to his new role as Chairman of the South Hadley, Granby and Easthampton Veterans’ Services District.

“I firmly believe that government can’t do everything, and there needs to be a public government partnerships to make improvements to the park,” Forcier said.

When he ran for Select Board in 2015, Forcier was vocal about the need for a new Senior Center. He is glad to see progress made towards that goal, like placing $200,000 in a stabilization fund for the new center, and regularly attends Council on Aging Board of Directors meetings.

“I’m very much in favor of a new senior center,” Forcier said. “From the very beginning I have said that we need to do it within the existing revenue.”

Forcier said the town has come up with plans to minimize future tax increases while keeping the project on budget.

“Nobody likes to pay taxes,” he continued. “We are dealing with the repercussions of the debt involving the golf course and the Plains School and the library.”

By using free cash reserves responsibly and planning for future repairs to town buildings, Forcier said the Select Board is practicing a forward-looking philosophy.

He has reservations when it comes to the sale and use of recreational marijuana, but will respect voters’ decision on the April 10 ballot.

“I would certainly bow to the will of the people, but from a personal level, it’s nothing that I would be involved with,” Forcier said.

A former member of the Golf Commission, Forcier says that the Recreation Department manager, Andy Rogers, has done a good job cutting costs and minimizing losses at the Ledges Golf Course.

“We need a proactive organization to come in with the marketing and golf course savvy to run the operation,” Forcier said.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@gazettenet.com.




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