, Gloucester, MA

May 11, 2013

Essex election Monday centers on board race

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ESSEX — Town voters will not have to make a lot of decisions when they go to the polls in the town’s election Monday, but their one contested choice is determining who will sit on the town’s chief leadership board.

Selectmen Lisa O’Donnell is defending her seat against an active write in-campaign by Haskell Court resident Karin Gertsch, with polls open Monday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the fire station on 24 Martin Street.

O’Donnell, first elected to the board in 2010, also chairs the Town Building Committee and sits on the Long Term Planning Committee. O’Donnell also serves on a steering committee with the Great Marsh Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

She is a graduate of Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and operates her own structural engineering consulting firm.

Gertsch — a Harvard University graduate — has worked as a marketing consultant to community banks, an author, a publisher, a grant writer as well as in community development.

She has lived in town for more than 40 years, and said she intended to run on the ballot. Due to a miscommunication, however, she missed the March deadline.

The two hold opposing views on Conomo Point.

O’Donnell said the eventual sale of the central district would best suit the town, as there is not much public waterfront land in the district.

The Board of Selectmen’s stance is that the town should retain as much property as possible in the north, through reducing bedrooms, limited sales near Conomo Lane, or attrition.

The selectmen’s plan, however, holds that the town should continue to lease some of the properties at fair market rates, to supplement the town budget for 10 to 15 years.

O’Donnell said fair market value will only benefit the town. In some cases, she said, a Conomo Point homeowner rents out the property, making above and beyond what the town would have reeled in.

”Someone else is making out and the town is loosing,” she said.

Gertsch, meanwhile, feels the northern portion of COnomo Point should be put to use as a public park.

She said the Board of Selectmen, so far, have been leading the town in the wrong direction, citing the various court cases.

”I don’t know where the end is,” she said of the town’s legal troubles.

Both candidates also recognize the town’s need for Town Hall, police and fire station improvements — or replacements.

Gertsch said she was not in favor of the site on John Wise Avenue, as it may be too expensive to build on.

“We need something for sure, but we need to be able to pay for it,” she said.

O’Donnell said the John Wise Avenue site is the only logical choice, as it is in the center of town, something necessary for emergency personnel.

She added one possibility would be adding a Parks and Recreation to the town, especially if more access is constructed around Conomo Point, as the Department of Public Works acts as a multitude of different departments.

All of the other candidates on the ballot are up for re-election.

They seats open are: Assessor, Town Moderator, Board of Health, two Constables, Regional School Committee and one on the Planning Board.

There are also write in slots for two Planning Board seats and one on the Housing Authority.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at