Former Selectman says residents asked him to run again

Gary Winitzer, candidate for Selectboard in the Royalston Town Election.

Gary Winitzer, candidate for Selectboard in the Royalston Town Election. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 03-14-2024 5:00 PM

ROYALSTON—In 2003, Royalston resident Gary Winitzer won a special election to fill an unexpected vacancy on the Selectboard—in 2005, he was defeated in a bid for a three-year term.

Since then, he has run for the Selectboard several times without success, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been active in the community. Winitzer serves on the Board of Assessors, Council on Aging, and is a trustee of the J.N. Bartlett Fund. He served on the Sewer Commission for years before residents voted to abolish the independent panel and have the Selectboard assume its responsibilities.

Asked why he’s trying again for a seat to the Selectboard in this year’s April 1 Town Election, Winitzer said, “Because a bunch of people in South Royalston asked me to. At that time, it was assumed that Deb D’Amico was going to run again.”

D’Amico, who is completing her second three-year term on the board, has decided not to seek reelection.

“I have experience as a selectman, sewer commissioner and assessor,” he said. “I understand how to run a town. We need somebody like that on the board.”

One issue motivating him to run again is how long it takes for the board to make decisions. He cited the former Raymond School, the future of which has been up in the air for almost 10 years. Town officials want to relocate those municipal offices currently housed in Whitney Hall to the Raymond Building but, other than the installation of a new boiler and roof, little has been done to facilitate the move, mainly due to lack of funding.

“The Selectboard gave it to the Building Committee,” he said, “and the Building Committee is still working on plans for what to do with town offices.”

The same lack of action, he contends, applies to Whitney Hall, located in the South Village.

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“We need to do something with that building and there are a lot of options,” he said. “I didn’t realize that Keen Independent Research wasn’t going to figure out how to market it or who might be interested in it.

“We paid (Keen) about $40,000 to tell us what we already knew; that the building was old and there are several things it could be used for. The only thing new was pictures of the attic.”

The Selectboard hopeful believes Whitney Hall is still useful, that one floor could be used for town offices, another for storage and something done with the auditorium and kitchen.

Recently, Royalston has been in discussions with neighboring communities regarding the potential of regionalizing both trash disposal services and police coverage for the community. Winchendon has offered Royalston the option of using its transfer station, for which the town would pay an annual fee and Royalston would close its facility. In addition, Royalston officials have raised the possibility of combining forces with Athol to meet its policing needs.

“I think we should keep our transfer station open,” said Winitzer. “I think we need to figure out what to do with the police department. I think the proposal from Athol is unreasonably expensive.”

Winitzer said he’s concerned that decisions affecting Royalston residents would be made by Athol officials and not by those who represent the people of Royalston.

“What might be an interesting thing to regionalize is the accounting service,” he said. “What we have in town are some very talented, educated people who can do a lot of the jobs that we farm out to other people. If we had an opening and we advertised it, we might actually get somebody qualified. The other option would be the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. They have four town accountants that work part-time for various towns – and they’re local.”

Winitzer has been a Royalston resident for 41 years, he said, and grew up in the town of Sharon. After high school, he attended UMass/Amherst, “but after a year and a half, I left and took a full-time job as a computer services analyst and programmer.”

Winitzer became an EMT in 1976, eventually earning certification as a paramedic, a position he held for 25 years.

Voting in the Royalston Town Election takes place on April 1, from 10 a.m.-8 p

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.