Golec seeks another term

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BELLOWS FALLS — Stefan Golec has been on the Rockingham Select Board for 15 years, give or take a few years.

And he's been on the Bellows Falls village trustees board for so long, he's lost count.

"I like being involved," Golec said in a recent interview.

Golec is running for re-election to his one-year seat on the Rockingham Select Board, and he's also part of a three-way race for the only open three-year seat on the board as well. The seat is currently held by Susan Hammond, who is seeking re-election, but she is being challenged by Golec and Select Board member Ben Masure. Golec and Masure are doubling-down, running for two seats at the same time.

Golec, 52, a 1986 graduate of Bellows Falls Union High School, said he likes being involved in his community and volunteering. He said that's behind his strategy of running for two seats simultaneously.

Golec, along with fellow board members Gaetano Putignano and Ben Masure, voted to eliminate the public works director's position, which saved the town about $120,000 in pay and benefits, and allowed the town budget to come in below last year's budget. Golec said keeping taxes low — or level — is one of his constant goals.

Golec said while he voted to reduce the proposed town budget of $6.2 million by $119,000, it wasn't necessarily directed at the public works director's job. "It wasn't anything personal," he said, referring to Everett Hammond, who took the job in 2018, when it was reinstated.

"I was really hoping we'd look at other items there," he said, mentioning the maintenance position at the town hall. "I think we can do some things differently."

"I advocated for a level-funded budget," said Golec, "and the tax rate is actually coming in at half a cent lower than last year. I'm happy with that."

He said there was "a good coalition on the board," referring to Putignano and Masure, although Golec disagreed with Putignano and Masure on where to build the Depot Street Bridge — whether to rebuild it in its current location or at a new location further up Canal Street.

"It would have been a better vision for The Island," he said.

Golec said he opposes the town being directly involved in rehabilitating old buildings in town, including the town-owned TLR paper mill or spending $12,500 to evaluate the Bellows Falls train station, with a long-range view of purchasing it.

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"It's a beautiful building. I love it. But I don't believe the town should be involved, or take ownership of it. The state of Vermont owns the land and the railway owns the building. I'd rather it be in private hands. If the town owns it, it's costing us money," he said.

Golec said he attended the first "Let's Take Action" meeting, and "dropped in" on the second, but he took issue with the recommendations that came out of the priority initiatives.

"There was a lot of discussion on the youth center. That's a nice novel idea, but Rockingham residents have invested a lot of money in the recreation department, and there's a huge investment by this community in a recreation facility," he said. Instead, the town should change the hours of the center, and increase its availability to the town's youth, he said.

"Let's utilize the resources we have," he said, noting the current rec center is "within walking distance of everywhere."

He said the biggest challenge facing Rockingham residents is taxes, and not just the town taxes. He said he recently spent some time volunteering at the Rockingham Recycling Center, and got an earful from people who said property taxes were too much of a burden.

"It's expensive to live here in Vermont. The job outlook isn't the greatest," said Golec, who commutes to work at Whelen Engineering Co. in Charlestown, N.H. The company employs more than 1,000 people — including many Rockingham area residents.

Golec isn't the only Golec on the select board; his cousin Peter is the current chairman of the board. He said his cousin has done a tremendous amount of volunteering at the recycling center, to try and reduce the town's subsidy of the enter. "He's done a hell of a job down there. It's now on an even keel," he said, referring to the increase in disposal fees, and the institution of user stickers. He said he hoped the center would change its hours to be more 'user-friendly' to townspeople, including maybe being open until 6 p.m. one day.

"We need different hours down there, either through increased staffing or more volunteers," he said.

Golec said he would like the board to have more control over spending that currently is under the control of the town manager. He said the current limit of $14,999 should be lowered to $5,000.

"I don't see it as micromanaging. I like to see the hands-on approach," he said. "I still want to be informed. We're spending people's money."

Golec, in addition to being on the two municipal boards in Rockingham and Bellows Falls, is a member of a neighboring fire department.

"I enjoy volunteering and helping out and somebody's got to do it," said Golec. Golec years ago started volunteering with the North Walpole Fire Department, and he recently marked 26 years with that department. "They needed some help over there and I was asked to help," he said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com.


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