Blanchard In Third Campaign For Adams Selectmen Seat
Richard Blanchard says he will be an independent voice for the people of Adams if he is elected to the Board of Selectmen.
ADAMS, Mass. — Richard Blanchard wants to do what is best for Adams and not for any particular group.
The retired military man is seeking a spot on the Board of Selectmen in his third campaign for a seat. Blanchard, a guard at the Silvio O. Conte Federal Building in Pittsfield, is looking to bring an "independent voice" to the board.
"I am an individual and I would vote that way. I am more concerned with Adams than I am with any special group," Blanchard said on Wednesday.
Blanchard said the town is financially in a good place but the taxpayers are not. He hopes that to join the board to increase the number of businesses and residents to spread out the funding required to run the community. To do that, he feels that the board should get more involved with other organizations.
"It's a military thing, these are team things and we need to get everybody on the team," he said.
He used the school district as an example. School officials are trying to lobby for an overhaul of state legislation that mandates how charter schools are funded and increase Chapter 70 funding. Blanchard said the town should get involved with that effort because it helps it in the end.
At the Greylock Glen, he supports the town's efforts in building a campground, amphitheater, educational center and conference building but wants the local colleges and towns to help. If Adams can attract somebody to the amphitheater, then maybe they'll want to visit Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams after, he said.
"Working together is different than follow the leader," Blanchard said.
He likes the idea of the town branding itself as a recreational center and can envision concerts at the Glen drawing people to the downtown.
"They need a reason to move here. You have to have something to draw people," he said, adding that the various recreational activities can spur niche businesses. "You have to create the market."
But beyond pushing those developments, Blanchard feels there is more to be done to support struggling taxpayers now and make it easier for businesses to move to Adams.
"We don't need to own as many buildings as we do," Blanchard said. "We're not in the land management business."
A few years ago, Blanchard said he found that the town owns some 15 unused lots in desirable locations but they have yet to go on the market. Adams needs to look at selling off land and buildings, he said, instead of having every department have its own building, some departments can work in leased space, he said.
That includes the Adams Visitors Center, which the town had taken over when the Berkshire Visitors Bureau moved out. He says the town has already spent money to repair the heating system, change out a wall and the roof is leaking. If the town can sell it and either move the Council on Aging somewhere else or lease that space from the new owner, they wouldn't have to worry about capital repairs.
"Our town departments don't have to be in town-owned buildings," he said.
However, the Memorial Middle School isn't even worth selling. With somewhere between $3 million and $5 million in repairs needed, Blanchard says the town should just give it away.
"I don't particularly care for the way it is going. If someone has an idea and a dollar, give it to them and see what they can do with it," Blanchard said.
He thinks the town should go outside of the region and market the town buildings for sale. But additionally, he wants to make it easier for a company to move to Adams. He said a company was recently interested in a vacant paper mill but the town required a sprinkler system above state codes and the company backed away.
Blanchard says he doesn't want to jeopardize safety but the town could be "less rigid" when it comes to the requirements they put on buildings.
Meanwhile, he says the town's Highway Department vehicles need to be replaced and should be a priority, but recognizes that those are big-ticket items. He questions if the cruiser replacement schedule of the Police Department could be scaled back to open money for other purchases.
The 48-year-old is in his third campaign for the seat. He fell short in the last two elections and this time is one of four vying for two seats. He is running against Michael Young, Donald Sommer and Joseph Nowak.
Blanchard said he has been interested in town politics but it wasn't until he retired from the military that he had the time to dedicate to it. In recent years, Blanchard boasts that he has sat in on just about every Board of Selectmen meeting.
"I always loved Adams and I want to help move it along," he said. "I just want to do what I can for the town."
This is the third in a series of profiles for the candidates for the selectmen in Adams.