The two candidates vying for a seat on the board of light commissioners were peppered with questions from a large crowd at the April 26 Meet Your Candidates Night, hosted by the Friends of the Princeton Library.
Responding to the question of why he was interested in the slot, Mirick Road resident Christopher Conway said what drove him to run were the rumors that people wanted to sell the local light department to a private investor or to have the town manager be in charge of PMLD.
“I found that disturbing,” Conway said. “In my 53 years here I’ve never had an issue with PMLD. A large, private investor wouldn’t react to the needs of 3,000 people in Princeton. My primary objective is to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said.
Conway works for Dore & Whittier Architectural Corp., which focuses primarily on school construction. PMLD needs tight fiscal management, an area he’s had experience with as treasurer for a large construction group and with a background in financial management, he said.
Donald Schoeny of Greene Road said he was interested in the job because he’s retired and wants to give back to the community.
“The light department is at a critical point in its history. It’s fundamentally bankrupt and it will take crafty work to get it back. Brian [PMLD manager Brian Allen] inherited this. No one knew the windmill was going to break. There are dire issues facing PMLD and I can bring experience and management to the board.
“It would be interesting to see whether the decision to leave the windmill broken ever came up,” said Schoeny, a resident since 1997 who said he has a master of science in aerospace engineering. “I worked in high tech for Hewlett Packard for 29 years, ran a small biotech company in Massachusetts for a while, then became CEO for a couple of biotech companies in Mass. and Connecticut.”
On the issue of cutting trees for utility lines, Conway said the town needs to cooperate and be flexible, but that tree cutting needs to be done.
Schoeny said that with communication and cooperation, the town could avoid taking down trees “willy nilly.”
Asked his vision for the department, Conway said the department has a future, especially when the windmill is back in operation and fiber optic cable is installed in municipal buildings.
Schoeny said the departments needs better communication and more transparency. He said he wants to see quarterly financial summaries made available to the public and wants messages sent to residents about problems at the department.
Worcester Road resident Jon Fudeman said he walked into the PMLD office recently and asked for financial statements. “Within seconds they were made available to me, everything I asked for. I sat with Brian and whatever questions I asked he answered them.”
Conway said lawsuits could come out of the windmill issue, and favorable resolution could solve some of the project’s problems. “A lot hinges on how PMLD presents their case against those who have hurt the town.”
“I’d like to get PMLD to think outside the box,” said Schoeny. “We don’t have to own those windmills. We could sell the assets and generate a tax base. I look at the other windmill and say, ‘when will it fail.’ Do we want to spend another $600,000 to fix it?”
Kevin Toohey asked if the candidates would consider an outside study of PMLD to determine whether to sell it.
“I’m certainly open to looking at the financial assets, including the sale of PMLD,” Schoeny said. “Our rates are high.”
Conway said he would consider an independent financial assessment. “I think there is validity in that.”
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