ATTLEBORO — With less than a month to go before the city election, mayoral candidate Heather Porreca has gone on the attack, including an allegation that incumbent Mayor Paul Heroux tried to “sabotage” the new high school project.
The allegation from the three-term at-large city councilor and current council vice president was included in a recent post on her campaign website in which she critiques Heroux’s first term.
Porreca hit Heroux on two major fronts: the new $260 million high school and the acquisition of Highland Park.
“The two major items the Municipal Council has approved, the new high school and the purchase of Highland Country Club, have both happened despite the mayor, not because of anything the mayor did,” she wrote.
And she went on to say Heroux secretly opposed the high school project.
“The mayor took steps behind the scenes to sabotage the high school project and only supported it when it became politically advantageous,” Porreca wrote.
She was out of town Friday at a friend’s funeral and said in an email she could not immediately detail what Heroux allegedly did to sabotage the project.
Heroux acknowledged his leadership was minimal as far as the high school project was concerned, but blasted Porreca for the allegation that he tried to thwart the effort.
“I agree that the high school would have happened regardless of who the mayor is,” he wrote in an emailed response to The Sun Chronicle. “I’ve never taken ownership of that project.”
But he never tried to block the project, he said.
“Does she think this is a TV drama?” Heroux said. “That is not true and there is nothing I could have done to sabotage the project, nor would I.”
Porreca pointed out that Heroux successfully pushed to extend the loan payback period from 20 years to 30 years, which makes the project more expensive by about $40 million.
The mayor acknowledged that decision, but said it was needed to lessen the short-term financial hit to city residents.
“The 30 year is easier to pay,” Heroux said. “We do pay more in interest, but it makes life easier. This decision helped make the tax hike more manageable for people struggling to pay their tax bills. I own that.”
Meanwhile, Heroux took exception to the claim that the purchase of the bankrupt Highland CC last year would have happened with out him.
“It is without question the purchase of Highland Country Club was something that I took the lead on,” the mayor said, claiming it was city councilors, including Porreca, who were tentative.
“Numerous city council members, including Heather, were keeping their vote secret,” he said. “Several city councilors were planning on voting ‘no,’ but they saw the public response at the public hearing and reconsidered that ‘no’ vote.”
In other issues, Porreca claims Heroux is moving too slowly on downtown revitalization, saying she has a more aggressive plan that would drastically reshape North and South Main streets for the better.
But Heroux points to the recent purchase of the Union Street block between Mill and Park streets by a developer and his plans for housing, which are already moving ahead.
The zoning board of appeals has granted permits needed for that work.
The election is Nov. 5.