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Support of area businesses, solutions to traffic congestion, and thefuture of the old Hampstead Elementary once it closes in June were among concerns brought up at a meet-the-candidates forum Wednesday.

About 10 people, mostly business owners, attended the forum to hear councilmen C. Clinton Becker and Gary W. Bauer.

Becker is running for mayor; Bauer is running for election to theseat to which he was appointed last year. Councilman Arthur H. Moleralso is running for re-election but was unable to attend the forum, organized by the Hampstead Business Association at Union National Bank. All three candidates are running unopposed.

The approximately 1,000 residents registered to vote may cast their ballots between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. May 14 at the Town Hall, 1034 S. Carroll St. In contrast to past elections, anyone who lives in the town limits and is registered to vote in the county elections automatically is registered in the town.

Until a state law took effect last year, voters had to register separately in the town. The change has increased the voting pool from 300 to about 1,000, said Town Manager John A. Riley.

But because of the lack of a contest, voter turnout could remain around the 100 or so who turned out for past elections.

Becker urged people at the evening forum to vote and to encourage their neighbors to vote.

With a small pool of voters, he said, a write-in challenger could win just by getting all of his or her friends to vote.

Rick Eikenberg of Eikenberg Printing and Specialty Co. asked that the town try harder to purchase goods and services from community businesses, using as an example the trash removal contract with Eastern Waste Industries Inc. instead of the local Hughes Trash Removal. Becker said the town is required to get bids for large purchases and take the lowest unless there is a good reason not to do so. EWI submitted a lower price than did Hughes, he said.

Jacqueline Hyatt, owner of Hyatt's Animal Boutique on Main Street, urged Becker and Bauer to try harder to support area businesses that provide jobs and tax money.

Hyatt also told Becker she hoped the town would quickly find a use for Hampstead Elementary on Main Street when it closes in June. If the building is left vacant for even a few months, Hyatt said, it could lead tovandalism, fire or illicit activity.

Becker said the county has the power to decide what happens to the building, adding that a numberof citizens and groups have proposed everything from low-income housing to office space to a satellite office for the school board.

On the issue of Main Street traffic, Becker and Bauer said they would continue to push the state to build a bypass to Route 30.

Bauer said he would want a limited-access bypass with no businesses to detract from Main Street. Becker said he would oppose plans to eliminate parking on Main Street and to widen it, which might also require takingland from existing businesses.

Such a change would give the state another excuse to delay the bypass, he said.

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