Camden Select Board Candidate Robert Falciani

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 8:00pm

On July 14, voters in Camden will choose two of three candidates to serve a three-year term on the Camden Select Board. Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the town and region.

Please provide a biography of yourself.

I was born and raised in the Boston area. All of my education was in Massachusetts. My university education includes receipt of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering as well as a master’s in business administration (MBA) with a major in strategic planning and financial management.

The bulk of my nearly 40-year career was as a co-owner of a professional services firm based in the heart of Silicon Valley, California. The firm grew to over 400 employees worldwide. The services provided included the strategic planning, design and construction management of our clients’ facilities.

In my career, I was involved in the execution of advanced technology facility projects for clients in the Biotechnology, Medical, Datacenter, Electronic’s Manufacturing and Research Laboratory sectors. The projects I was involved in took me to 36 countries and 25 states.

What are the three most pressing issues facing Camden today, and how would you like to see them resolved?

There are numerous challenges that face a community at any specific time in its history. Often, events such as the one we are facing now, is a good example of how priorities can be diverted by unanticipated events. However, in my 3 years on the Select Board, I have maintained a constant focus on the management and control of property taxes, the need to repair/maintain what we already have in Camden (parks, buildings and utility infrastructure, etc), and to position the Town to better address the environmental challenges that face us today.

Camden elections and 2020 Town Meeting during COVID-19 pandemic

Camden is holding municipal, school budget and state elections on July 14.

In an unprecedented move, Camden will also hold its annual town meeting on July 14, as well, with all warrant articles appearing before voters at the ballot box.

This is a one-time phenomenon, the town hopes, as municipalities across the state cope with a pandemic of COVID-19.

Town Meeting will be conducted by secret ballot only.  There will be no open floor town meeting in 2020.

Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate running for the Camden Select Board, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the town and region.

There are two seats available on the Select Board, each representing three-year terms.

Seeing reelection are Robert Falciani and Alison McKellar, while Peter Lindquist has also entered the race.

The candidates have responded with their individual written answers.

Alison McKellar

Peter Lindquist

Robert Falciani

We have successfully managed to control tax increases to at or below inflation levels (Town Budget only as we do not control the School District budget increases). We have implemented a Capital Expenditure Planning Program to ensure we identify needs of our failing infrastructure including buildings, parks, roads, drainage, etc.

This allows us to, as I always say, “Keep track of what we know needs to be done” and to forecast when we can execute this work while keeping taxes down. For example, we will execute projects as we pay off loans (bond debt) from previous projects. Lastly, we have implemented a number of initiatives to reduce the Town’s environmental footprint.

This includes ongoing work to reduce energy consumption in Town facilities including snow bowl, Town Hall/Opera House, Public Safety, Public Works and our Library. In addition, we are in the final stages of execution of a program ensuring the Town’s long term electrical consumption will be solely from renewable sources.

How will you protect the Camden taxpayer as you shape and govern a municipal budget, and juggle various interests that request municipal funding throughout the year?

The discussion above addresses the foundation of how we have controlled property tax (municipal budget). In the past three years, we have established a capital planning tool that allows us to list identified needs which may come from a variety of sources.

We have had a number of instances where expenditure requests come to our attention during the year. We have used the tool to show the backlog of Town needs so we can have a substantive discussion of the big picture versus a focus on the merits of the requested expenditure.

I have often said that every request we get has a significant degree of merit; however, financial control is rooted in maintaining an eye on the bigger picture and ensuring others understand overall perspective of Town priorities/needs.

Camden has refined and promoted itself as part of an outdoor recreational economy for several years. Do you believe that is worth continuing, and if so, how so?

In the world today, the most successful communities are typically labeled as being unique due to the fact that they embody certain distinctive attractions. Camden certainly has numerous attributes that make it distinctive. We are fortunate to be able to brag about our recreational activities like the Snow Bowl, toboggan nationals, mountain biking/hiking trails, parks, harbor, etc.

Many communities would be happy to have any of these attributes. We absolutely need to continue to find new events like toboggan nationals, Camden Classic Boat Regatta, Windjammer Weekend, etc. The “round the mountain trail” and other hiking/biking opportunities are another facet that will naturally expand our recreational heartbeat.

How do you see Camden positioned in the larger regional Midcoast economy?

Camden is a significant part of the Midcoast economy. In 2016 the Town businesses contributed over $90 million in sales tax revenue to the State of Maine. We certainly need to ensure that we continue to foster the economic vibrancy of our community. Part of this was addressed in the previous response regarding recreation. The distinctive opportunities of which we boast feed our numerous businesses which in turn feed the Midcoast economy.

What municipal committee would you like to be a liaison to, and why?

I am pleased to say that I have the ability to participate in all of our committees. Last year the Select Board approved an updated “Committee Guidelines” document. In this document, we outlined the process by which committees develop annual “work plans”.

These work plans are discussed with the Select Board at scheduled meetings. In this way, the Select Board is apprised of where committees are focused so that we are “all on the same page”. In addition, the committee guidelines require that all meetings are live streamed and recorded. So whenever I (as one Select board member) am interested, I can review deliberations of any committee whether liaison or not.

Obviously each of us has disparate interests. Most recently, I have focused more on Energy, Harbor, Parks and Recreation, Historical Committee work plans. I am liaison on two of these committees.

How will you protect the town-owned Ragged Mountain Recreation Area from overuse as the region becomes more attractive to biking, skiing and hiking?

In any Town operation, whether it is a building or an outdoor recreation facility, one must ensure that specific attention is paid to the “maintenance” of same. Too often the maintenance element is under budgeted from the outset. We have numerous parks in Camden which have significant need for annual maintenance. In virtually all municipalities, this is typically under budgeted. One of, the best tools, in this regard, is to establish “preventative maintenance” programs. In short don’t wait until there is a problem. This applies to our Ragged Mountain operations in particular.

We have had erosion issues for which we have done remediation and are looking at longer term modifications to ensure we do not have continuing erosion problems. While many of these erosion issues are not necessarily a function of use, they require constant attention.

How do you envision the future of solid waste processing for the four towns; i.e., recycling, waste stream reduction?

As chairperson of the Midcoast Solid Waste (MCSW) Board of Directors, I can state that this is an area where we (Four Towns) are focusing on the future of our solid waste facility.  I am also chair of the MCSW Strategic Committee, which develops information for the Board on just this this topic.

It is clear that the recycling markets have been and are a moving target. It is not about making or losing money on a specific recycled item but rather that there may not be a viable market for them at a specific moment in time.

Numerous communities like Rockland have transitioned to the “single stream” approach which seems to be working well. One reason is the development state of the art facilities that will take the single stream, separate same and “repurpose” them using various technologies.

This is one option, among others, that will be considered by MCSW in the coming months.

In addition, I agree with fellow board members that we need to also focus on “repurposing” other elements with respect to our landfill. This includes construction and demolition materials. There are numerous examples where municipalities insert a step in the landfill process that sorts out materials, appliances, etc., that can be repurposed. It has been proven to be a viable option to reduce the volume of materials that go into landfill operations.

What is the future of alternative energy municipal production and service for Camden?

The Town is currently involved in a number of initiatives in this area. In February, we engaged Siemens to execute “performance contracting” for Town facility operations including Town Hall/Opera House, Wastewater Treatment Plant, Public Safety, Public Works, Snow Bowl and the Library. Basically, they are well into the process of identifying energy conservation opportunities for each operation.

Siemens will summarize the opportunities in a decision matrix and quantify energy savings. With a performance contract, Siemens will guarantee the energy savings per year. The Town will pay Siemens for the rework/modifications utilizing guaranteed energy savings.

In short, the net cost to taxpayers is ZERO!

It is currently estimated that Camden municipal operations could save between 15-20% of current energy demand for the facilities mentioned. Some of the retrofits will likely entail solar or possibly geothermal installations. 

In parallel, Camden is in the final phase of evaluation of the best option for “renewable electric energy supply” for 100% of its annual electrical demand.

Currently, Camden’s electrical supply is at 70% renewable energy through the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits. Recent legislation (2020) has created an option that could provide Camden with longer term 100% solution. This entails the application the Net Energy Billing Credits (NEBC) program.

Maine is now the 42nd State to adopt NEBC. This option will be addressed in a June Select Board meeting.

 

How best should all Camden citizens access high-speed, broadband internet?

This is one of the more poignant questions herein. This issue that has been identified in the past as a priority for our Town (e.g., Camden Comprehensive Plan).

Recent events have underscored the inadequacies that exist in our towns regarding broadband.

Prior to the current pandemic, both Rockport and Camden put together a “work group” to accomplish two objectives. First, creating and publishing informational literature to the public regarding broadband and internet usage. Secondly, there was a survey published in each Town to poll residents on their respective satisfaction regarding broadband usage and internet speed.

In Camden alone, we received 177 responses currently being analyzed.

In the last month, we formed the Camden Rockport Broadband Task Force to take this work to the next level. The Task Force will focus on the feasible option(s) to improve the availability of high speed internet for our residents.

Camden and Rockport now share a police chief and an assessor. Are there other cost-sharing arrangements that Camden could do, with Rockport or other towns, to spread the staffing responsibilities; e.g., share a planner? Public works director?

The services/cost sharing we are doing has been very successful. The entire country has been focusing on “regionalization” initiatives. In many jurisdictions, this focus has been at the County level. Unfortunately, to date, this has not been the focus of our County. Regardless of this situation, Camden continues to discuss options in this area, one of which is discussed in the response below.

 

What do you see as the future of EMS service for Camden?

Camden and the surrounding towns have been engaged in discussions regarding EMS services as has been publicized over the past months. We have been discussing options that include “Fire Based EMS Service.”

Briefly, this model entails utilizing existing town first responders and town owned equipment to provide EMS. This would include locating EMS equipment such as ambulances in select surrounding Towns. This form of service is already in place in our area (Rockland) as well as other jurisdictions in Maine.

Camden has taken a step in this direction by initiating EMT level training for our current first responder resources.

In the next phase, we plan to convene “public information” sessions wherein the public can provide input with respect to expectations of “EMS level of service”. This will occur in the forthcoming months assuming, of course, we can reengage “information session” type gatherings.

 

 Free space! Please add additional thoughts as you see fit.

In my three years on the Camden Select Board, I strongly believe the Town has made numerous accomplishments. To achieve objectives in our Town Management form of government requires the effective involvement of the team that is comprised of the all Select Board Members AND Town Manager/Staff.

In my view, this has worked very well. Have we accomplished all that we wanted to accomplish?—NO! The responses above represent only a portion of what has been accomplished.

There remains a long list that requires continued attention. Unfortunately we cannot predict future unforeseen events that could affect our focus. One of the most important things we have done is to identify/document goals and related objectives.

The purpose is to ensure we don’t lose sight of our direction while events may require us to make stops along the way. If elected, I look forward to being able to continue my involvement in this regard.