Monday, October 21, 2019

Franklin Candidate Interview: Tom Mercer

This interview with Tom Mercer, candidate for Franklin Town Council in 2019, was collaborated on via email. We reviewed the following questions, some of them were ‘crowd sourced.’ Some of you may remember the call for input solicited in August 2019 for this election. Thank you for your contributions.

Hopefully, the information provided here, and in the other interviews, will enable the Franklin voters to make a good choice among the candidates for each position.

For the following FM presents the question. TM represents Tom’s response.
FM = There are and have been many opportunities to volunteer with community groups in Franklin. Have you taken advantage of any of these? Which ones, and why did you choose that/those?
TM = I am a lifelong resident of Franklin and I have successfully served you, the residents of Franklin, as a Town Councilor for the last 8 years, and the last year as Chairman. Previously, as a School Committee Member for 10 years - 8 of which I served as Chairman. I was Chairman of the Building Committees for 3 of our largest and newest town structures – the Horace Mann/Oak Street/ECDC School Complex, the Franklin Senior Center, and most recently the new state of the art Franklin High School. I served as a member of the Dean Community Council. I have served on the Franklin Country Club Board of Directors for over 20 Years. I have also served on the Franklin Performing Arts Company Board of Directors for over 30 years.

FM = Where do you get your news about Franklin?
TM = Franklin Matters and the Country Gazette along with the news feeds from the internet.

FM = For all those running for Town Council: We are in a constant water shortage. We are adding to our population and increasing out need for water. Given that all those who live in Franklin draw their water from the same aquifer, do you support a ban on using water for what I will call cosmetic use (lawn watering) during water shortages, even for those with a private well? If not, why not, considering that those with private wells are still dangerously affecting our water level for uses other than vanity? Or put simply: Do you support the private use of wells for lawn irrigation at times when the town's aquifer is dangerously low for use by the community for essential use in homes and fire prevention?
TM = This is not the exact way to phrase the problem or solution. the private well issue question usually comes black and white, and the debate can be divisive and counterproductive. Also, private well owners are not the single source of a town water problem or shortage.

The fact is we have very good water quality in Franklin and a safe quantity of it. The best way to address water protection is education and best practices at the individual property owner level and good infrastructure investments. 

The town is investing almost $11 million in the reconstruction of wells 3 and 6 off Grove Street to allow us more capacity and better quality. One of the wells right now is shut down due to high iron and manganese levels. But we’ll have a new facility which will help the system. We also just began a new 5-year water main pipe replacement schedule. Consistent infrastructure investments are actually a more effective way to conserve and maintain good water systems.

I’m not clear where this “acquifer is low” claim comes from. Not saying it’s not true, but it really doesn’t matter because the Town is in very good standing with the state DEP with our Water Management Act permit, which regulates town wide water use. It’s actually our Permit with the state that mandates we have mandatory water conservation days, but this is not uncommon. The state of Massachusetts and cities and towns are relatively good at water protection.

The Town DPW and Water Department have won state awards for water conservation. Our system is in good shape right now. Future challenges will be continued innovations and maintenance of the system, as well as stormwater.

FM = What degree of development do you feel is appropriate for Franklin, and how would you balance the need for affordable housing, with the need to avoid congestion?
TM = Two years ago the town reached its 10% goal of 10% affordable housing stock by state laws. It allows us to have full control over our own zoning without a 40B housing project being approved by the state and overriding our local zoning. There are few higher priorities than to maintain that 10% status. And that will always be the housing goal, as Chapter 40B has been in state law for fifty years.

the Town Council will have many future debates on zoning, and how the town may want to address this recent growth spurt. It’s a difficult balance, and we will need citizens to participate in these coming years on the issue of development and growth. What do people in this community want to see in the future?

The Town is just over halfway through its ten-year Master Plan process. The Town Council will have an update on that sometime in 2020, as the Town prepares to start that process again in the not too distant future.

The Town Council should approve large cash reserves this year for open space protection, $900,000 in October 2019 which will bring the fund to $2.1 million.

FM = The Town Administrator has suggested that Franklin needs to pass an override measure. What actions will you take to support the passage of this measure?
TM = First, we’ll need to monitor the towns’ budget situation closely throughout the year as the Town Administrator and Superintendent build their budgets. I’d expect that we would have a reasonable number in late January. My guess is the next Town Council and School Committee will have to discuss an override, how much and for what and what the community strategy may be.

Franklin Candidate Interview: Tom Mercer
Franklin Candidate Interview: Tom Mercer
At this point, I support and hope a discussion will occur next year on discussing with taxpayers a revenue increase. As the Town Administrator has stated numerous times, the cost of doing business is far exceeding our ability to raise revenue. Construction costs, personnel costs and Heath care costs are increasing at a rate that has put stress on the system relative to service demand. It’s a partial symptom of a good economy for sure. And it’s something we need to really engage a wider audience in the community on. Everyone will need to be involved. As ultimately any override is a decision made by the Community as a whole not the Town Council. It is the Town Council’s job to provide the community with all the facts so they can make an informed decision.

FM = Why should I vote for you?
TM = I believe that I have the knowledge to ensure fair and honest representation for the residents and businesses of Franklin. I will work to keep and improve services and spend our tax dollars wisely. Having been previously elected and having served in local government, I am aware of the personal demands and political pressures - but I continue to look forward to those challenges.

I will continue to work hard to improve the communication between town boards both elected and appointed. Franklin deserves leadership dedicated to open government, safe schools, and a healthy local economy. I have built a solid reputation as a leader, facilitating cooperative, and constructive discussions that have led to success. I am proud of my track record, and I ask for your vote on November 5th.

If you have questions to follow up with Tom, you can find his contact information on the Town of Franklin page

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