Massena town board candidate profile: Loren Fountaine says town needs to bolster small businesses
MASSENA -- Loren Fountaine, a Democrat running for town council, says he thinks the town needs to bolster small businesses so they can create living wage jobs, and in turn do what the town can to train the employees those businesses need to make that happen.
Fountaine is a New York State United Teachers labor relations specialist. He is also on the Massena Central School Board of Education and is chairman of their finance committee.If he is elected to the Town Council, he will not have to give up his school board seat, according District Clerk Candice Prairie.
“I really think we need to talk to our SB owners and say ‘what is it that you need? What kind of skills are you looking at in folks to help your business grow?” Fountaine said.
“We need to find a way to allow adults to gets those skills either that’s adult training or paring agencies that can help … to get people into living wage situations.”
“How do we attract a business to the area? We grow the economy … work with our current businesses to create more living wage jobs. That’s going to grow the economy and create more demand for living wage jobs,” he said.
He said he defines “living wage” as jobs that pay at least $30,396 annually, or $38,400 for families that require childcare. He says those numbers are the minimum living wage for this area according to the National Center for Children in Poverty.
Fountaine believes the biggest issue in Massena is a lack of living wage jobs.
“The job growth we’ve seen in Massena, and we should respect all businesses, is low-wage jobs, and people have to work two and three jobs to make it. That has an effect on people and that has an effect on families,” he said.
“It makes it very hard for people and it makes it very hard for the school systems.”
He says coordinating with small businesses is the key to a new economic boom in Massena, not a return to the manufacturing jobs of decades past.
“We have a town that was built on the backs of manufacturing. Those were very good times for the Town of Massena when we had big corporate jobs here,” he said.
“We have to really look to maintain those, but we always have to be careful to not look backward … I don’t see what as the future of Town of Massena.”
He thinks the town should invest more in tackling the local drug problem.
“We have to start I think the town and village of Massena look at recovery options for folks rather than just getting rid of the supply side,” Fouintaine said.
“People with addiction problems research shows it’s more than just the addiction … we have to move into mental health and recovery and supporting them through the process.”
He believes the controversy that erupted during the Massena Memorial Hospital privatization process has created a local rift, and he wants to help “bring the community back together.”
“The hospital situation has created division, whether that’s fair or not,” he said. “Politics are ugly. People are angry. And that’s unfortunate.”
He said the town supervisor’s approach to the MMH Board of Managers earlier in the year was “aggressive” but he feels it was necessary.
“We have to be honest with ourselves. What Mr. O’Shaughnessy did saved the taxpayers $28 million,” Fountaine said.
“Yes it was aggressive. Yes it’s sad we had to go down that road. It’s sad for both sides to get in a power struggle like that.”
The $28 million figure is based on $20 million that MMH will get from the state once they affiliate with St. Lawrence Health System. And once they’ve taken over MMH, SLHS has said they will put $8 million into the hospital.
When asked what makes him qualified for the Town Council, Fountaine pointed to his work with the NYSUT union and service on the school board.
“I’m a labor relations representative, so I negotiate a lot of contracts, I do a lot of negotiations most of which gets settled,” he said, adding that he has “skills to bring people together.”
“I’m proud of my title as chair of the (school board) finance committee, while keeping down taxes and maintaining services,” he said.