Candidate profile: John Waterman
Selectman candidate John Waterman served 34 years as a financial analyst, and he's hoping to bring his financial acumen to Marion -- a town, he says, needs to reevaluate its priorities in the face of mounting debt.
Waterman hasn't previously held a political role in town, and decided his best option was to start small. "I decided to run for the one-year term to see how I fit in the role, if I could be effective," he said.
He noted that, in his eyes, the town isn't doing enough to keep voters informed of the issues, saying that many residents don't have the time or ability to routinely attend board meetings. Most residents, he said, hear about developments in town via the rumor mill, and only get snippets of information. New and "creative" ways to reach out to townspeople and provide them with complete and correct information are necessary, Waterman explained.
When it comes to a governing style, Waterman has a particular image in mind. "My goal would be to get as much accurate information out to the residents of Marion as possible, and not to take sides," he explained. "I might have a personal preference," he continued, "but a selectman's chair isn't the proper place to endorse it. The voters are owed all of the options, and as much accurate information on them as possible."
Waterman stated that as far as he's concerned, there are three main goals to get Marion on the right track for the future. Number one is the town's finances.
"The fact that Marion has the seventh-highest debt per capita in the Commonwealth is a wake-up call," Waterman said, noting that the renovation of the current Town House will be, as far as he knows, a major increase in general fund debts. "If we have to think about debt capacity, let's think about what we're borrowing money for. We have a lot of other things that are going to have significant costs attached to them."
Waterman's next goal is creating a list of priorities to tackle. "We have crumbling sidewalks, a sewer system leaking thousands of gallons of stormwater," he said. "I'm not sure I understand why the Town House was bumped forward on the priority list. Why are we rationing sewer hookups? We can't get any development that way," he noted. "Sewer, water, streets. Those are the priorities. The other stuff won't even matter if we don't get those done."
The top priority when it comes to wastewater, Waterman said, should be "a plan for sewer infrastructure that includes: selectively extending the Town sewer, developing policies for failed septic tanks and illegal sump pump connections, reducing costly inflow and infiltration to our sewer pipes, and upgrading our waste treatment facility, as required, to meet the new [federal] permit requirements."
He'd like to spend some time making Route 6 safer, and beautifying it. "Jennifer Francis and the Transportation Task Force have a good start going," he said. "But today, anyone driving down Route 6 wouldn't even bother going into the village if they didn't know it was there. [Route 6] isn't very welcoming."
That means, he says, hopefully installing more bike paths and walking trails; things that will attract residents of all ages to the town.
It also means creating condos for senior residents. "Condos routinely get shut down due to sewer rationing," Waterman explained. "Older residents want to stay here, but they have no place to go. I've seen it myself. We need reasonably-priced apartments or assisted living near Marion Center."
In terms of helping the village economically, he added, 20 small condos with the appearance of houses would bring economic support to the town and its senior residents, while relying comparatively little on resources like schools.