NEW BEDFORD - Six candidates vying for a Ward 3 City Council seat took part in a forum Wednesday night during the monthly Mount Pleasant Street/Ward 3 Neighborhood Association meeting at Holy Name of the Sacred Heart Church. 

The special election has brought a diverse field to the ballot, including a pair of former councilors, another pair with vast political experience and two complete newcomers.

All candidates had a chance to talk about what issues they thought Ward 3 and the city as a whole are facing, many sharing the same concerns.

Hugh Dunn, former aide to Congressman Bill Keating, said he saw lots of potential for Ward 3 from an economic standpoint.

"I think with the waterfront access and the highway access and the Hicks-Logan Sawyer area, we can attract more businesses to this area," Dunn said.

Mark Zajac, former Ward 6 councilor, also believes there is redevelopment potential along Hathaway Rd., but fears some environmental issues could rear their head.

"We see properties like the Building 19 property that is kind of right in the heart of Ward 3," Zajac said. "Can that be redeveloped? Is there a huge Brownfield issue once we knock the place down? I don't think anybody knows."

All of the candidates agreed the Building 19 property could result in the Ward's third Brownfield site and, if so, they will work with state and federal officials to ensure a safe, cost effective cleanup.

Newcomer Bethany Fauteux said she hopes to get bride the disconnect between residents and City Hall.

"I want to act as a liaison between the community and the politics," said Fauteux. "I want the community involved."

Guy A. Larock, another political rookie and local attorney, said he looks forward to working with others to learn the ropes and help cut down on public safety issues such as panhandling.

"Every major intersection is being taken over and I'm not quite sure how to answer that question...but I'm willing to listen," said Larock.

On the issue of property taxes, former Ward 3 councilor Kathy Dehner hopes to take a new look at value assessments and other ways to alleviate the tax burden on residents and businesses alike.

"Taxes really effect not just one category or another, they effect everyone and it's, I think, one of the bigger problems just as important as crime and issues like that."

Finally, discussion touched on public schools after several questions from residents. Though the city council doesn't hold any jurisdiction over the school department, former school committee member Jill Marie Ussach said she would use her powers of the city budget to make sure schools are utilizing their funds appropriately.

"I'm a person that sees the bottom line," Ussach, who holds a professional background in banking, said. "I scrutinize funding and that's my main concern."

The large field of candidates will be whittled down to two following the March 28th preliminary election. The final two will move on to the April 25th special election and the winner will serve until the end of December.

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