The only contested ward councilor races on the Nov. 5 ballot are in Wards 2 and 5, and the Times debates Wednesday night featuring the four candidates for those two seats gave an insight into some of the diverse issues facing Gloucester as the municipal elections approach.
In the debate for the Ward 5 seat being vacated by Greg Verga’s at-large run, first-time challengers Scott Chernov and William Fonvielle discussed how best to return downtown Magnolia to its former splendor, as well as how to ease the transition of the students at the West Parish Elementary School when construction on the proposed new $36 million West Parish School begins.
Both Chernov and Fonvielle agreed that one high priority is renovating and re-staffing the Magnolia Fire Station before the city’s new collective bargaining contract with firefighters takes effect in July.
“I’ll try my best to get it done earlier,” Chernov said. “Even if I have to sit outside the building while it gets finished.”
Neither really had an answer for easing the transition of West Parish students during construction of a new school.
They offered differing solutions for revitalizing the Magnolia business district. Fonvielle advanced the idea of recruiting more high-tech business in the vein of the newly opened Innovation House, which he described as an incubating firm for new high-tech businesses.
“We need a long-range plan,” Fonvielle said.
Chernov supported the idea of more public-private partnerships to revitalize the Magnolia downtown. He also said the city should re-emphasize eco-tourism to take advantage of the natural open spaces throughout Ward 5.
Fonvielle countered, saying “eco-tourism” was a stretch for the downtown area.
The debate between the candidates for the Ward 2 seat had a more adversarial tone in a rematch between incumbent Melissa Cox and her challenger, former Ward 2 councilor Ann Frontiero Mulcahey.