Tony Martinez on April 13, 2016

Sharply Contrasting Views On The State Of Westford Presented At LWV Debate

Westford voters will head to the polls on May 3 and if Wednesday night is any indication, they will get a clear contrast in their choices for the Board of Selectmen.

In the 47th annual Westford League of Women Voters Candidate Night, three contenders for the two slots on the Board of Selectmen provided diametrically opposed views to the current state of the town as well as numerous other issues within the town.

On one side, incumbents Scott Hazelton and Andrea Peraner-Sweet shared a positive view, touting recent progress the town has made and espousing confidence toward fixing problems such recent projected cost overruns at the proposed Boston Road Fire Station.

Tony Martinez on April 13, 2016

Tony Martinez on April 13, 2016

On the other side, challenger Tony Martinez painted the picture of a town in need of a major overhaul, claiming a lack of transparency from the town’s current government that he referred to as “lying” and “dysfunctional,” and identifying statements from the other two candidates as “false.”

In particular, Martinez voiced his opposition the Selectmen’s decision on Tuesday to approve $38,500 to design sidewalks on Main Street near Tadmuck Road, claiming it went against the will of voters at Town Meeting who voted against appropriations for Main Street sidewalks on multiple occasions.

Peraner-Sweet firmly rebuked the assertions from Martinez, citing that the funding approved on Tuesday came from unexpended money from last year’s Annual Town Meeting, also noting that construction costs for the Tadmuck area were approved by Town Meeting voters if they could be obtained within the $1.8 million appropriated for the entire Main Street water main and road replacement project coming next summer.

Martinez and the incumbent candidates also differed in their views on the former Drew Gardens property and how to bring new business into Westford as well. But perhaps nowhere was the gap between the two sides more notable than on the issue of sidewalks.

Hazelton supported the town’s targeted sidewalk construction approach that focuses on schools first and advocated for more crosswalks. Peraner-Sweet believed that seeking a Complete Streets policy is the best route, also touting the new Healthy Community Committee. Martinez opposed all sidewalks, stating that they went against the rural character of Westford and that those who supported them should move elsewhere.

The only other contested race facing Westford voters involves two seats on the Board of Health.

There, incumbent Sue Hanly faces off against challengers Stephanie Granger and Anastasia O’Malley.

Anastasia O'Malley and the blue liquid on April 13, 2016

Anastasia O’Malley and the blue liquid on April 13, 2016

Unlike in the Selectmen’s race, there was broad agreement on most topics between the three candidates, although O’Malley added an additional emphasis on trying to get the Board of Health more focused on “everyday” health concerns that might be overlooked.

She emphasized this point during her closing statement when she took a dropper of blue liquid and put it into a bowl, continually naming a list of chemicals and other substances average Westford residents face during their day.

In addition to the two contested races, the event also provided a forum for the unopposed incumbents on the ballot which included Planning Board Member Kate Hollister, Library Trustee Kathleen Canavan and School Committee Members Tom Clay and Arthur Benoit.

A full voters’ guide is expected to be released by the League of Women Voters before Election Day.