January 27, 2013

Teacher, retired auto dealer seek Benton selectmen spot

Antoine Morin, 39, or Robert Morrissette, 78, will succeed Kimberley Cormier, who is not seeking re-election

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

BENTON -- A teacher and a former auto dealer are competing to become the newest member of the Benton Board of Selectmen.

Antoine Morin, 39, a special education teacher in the Skowhegan-based School Administrative District 54, said he brings a fresh perspective to town politics and hopes to see a natural gas line extended into Benton.

Robert Morrissette, 78, is a Navy veteran and retired used car business owner who says that his experience in municipal positions will help him to guide Benton through upcoming tough times.

The election winner will succeed Kimberley Cormier, who is not seeking re-election.

Morin joined the town's Planning Board within the last year. He said his experience in formal town positions is limited but that he and his wife of 15 years, Lori, have been involved in annual Town Meetings and in the larger community.

"I just want to get involved," he said. "If anything, I'm going to bring a fresh perspective."

Morin said he would devote a lot of time and energy to bringing a proposed natural gas pipeline into Benton.

"I attended a Summit Natural Gas presentation in Winslow, and their proposed line stops right at the Winslow-Benton town line," he said. "I'd like to do whatever I can to make it a possibility for it to go up Benton Avenue and into Benton Elementary School."

The project is important, he said, because it could result in a 40 percent decrease in energy costs for local residents, as well as bringing down the cost of heating the school.

Morrissette has been the chairman of Benton's Planning Board for several years, the latest in a series of municipal positions he has held. They have included stints as a Sidney selectman, Sidney's fire chief, a Kennebec Water District trustee and membership on various other boards.

During his 25 years in Benton, he said, he has always been interested in town government.

He said the biggest issue facing the town has to do with Gov. Paul LePage's proposed budget, which would eliminate state revenue sharing.

"If the state does indeed cut back or eliminate revenue sharing, it's going to be quite a blow, not only to the town of Benton but every town in the state of Maine."

Morrissette said Benton would be hard-pressed to operate with a significantly smaller budget.

"That only leaves one alternative, and that's property taxes," he said. "That will hurt a lot of people."

Morrissette said that while the effect will be significant, he thinks the state and the federal government must do whatever it takes to control their own spending.

Before taking a position with the Skowhegan-based school district, Morin taught at the Fairfield-based School Administrative District 49, which includes Benton.

He earned a master's degree in education from the University of Maine and a bachelor's degree from the University of Maine in Machias. He graduated from Forest Hills High School in Jackman.

He said he would like to leave Benton a better place under his leadership.

"I don't think there's really one big issue," he said. "I think it's a matter of being a good steward and a good public servant and listening to all parties involved."

Morrissette graduated from Williams High School in Oakland and spent time in the Navy. He spent most of his adult life operating a used car business in Waterville, which has stayed in the family since his retirement.

In 2012, Morrissette ran for the board but lost to Daniel Chamberlain 628-571.

Voting is scheduled for March 8. The business portion of the annual Town Meeting will take place the next day.

Absentee ballots will be available soon in the Town Office.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287

mhhetling@centralmaine.com

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