Shakeup in Bow, no to Northwood full-day kindergarten as town meeting season kicks off
Newcomers won a hotly contested budget committee race in Bow. Allenstown rejected a $1 million cut to its school budget. A plan for new town offices lost in Epsom. Write-in candidates won in Newbury. Northwood said no to full-day kindergarten. Bristol said yes to nanobreweries.
With no overriding Election Day trend yesterday, voters across New Hampshire cast ballots for selectmen, zoning board members, treasurers and more. In towns and school districts with the SB 2 form of government, residents voted on budget items large and small.
In the Concord area, voters in three towns also held traditional meetings. And up north, voters cast ballots in a race to replace the late Ray Burton on the Executive Council; the outcome remained too close to call at press time.
Yesterday marked the high point of New Hampshire town meeting season, which will continue throughout the month. Tonight, for instance, voters in Bow, Warner and the Henniker School District will meet. On Saturday, nine more Concord-area towns will gather.
Yesterday was a fine day for voting – no snow, warmer weather, plenty of sunshine. In Bow, turnout was large; elsewhere, participation was less impressive. Weare Town Clerk Maureen Billodeau called her town’s turnout of 1,425 about average.
Here are the local highlights:
Bow Budget Committee
In Bow, newcomers Bob Arnold and Jeffrey Knight won seats on the budget committee, beating incumbent Bill Cohen by more than 350 votes.
“I think that is a statement . . . that people want to look for a more affordable way to still provide services to the town, while not drastically increasing the taxes,” said Arnold, who waited at the community center with roughly 25 others while the votes were tallied.
Arnold received 746 votes, Knight got 742, Cohen won 376 and four votes were cast for write-ins.
“That’s pretty decisive; the numbers speak for themselves,” Cohen said.
Knight could not be reached for comment.
“It was encouraging to see how many people went out and voted today,” Arnold said. Roughly 1,095 voters turned out, he said, compared with last year’s 600.
Cohen agreed. “I have lived in Bow 25 years and never seen anything like that.”
Outside the polls yesterday afternoon, a sign that said “Tax Fighting Team, Arnold and Knight” stood in the snow.
Resident Carol Ann Neff said the budget race drew her to the polls. She voted for Arnold and Knight. “I look at my own life and I would love to put a lot of money in my home, but I have to follow budget,” she said. “I sort of feel that’s how the town should be as well.”
Weare police measures
After a tumultuous year for the Weare Police Department, voters rejected three measures supported by Chief John Velleca and the selectmen.
By the largest margin, residents turned down a proposal to add two police officers to the unit, 411-974. Voters also defeated, 481-898, a proposed police contract that would have increased salaries and decreased town health care costs. A request for a new cruiser, to replace a car with more than 150,000 miles, was rejected, 581-801.
It is a minor setback for the department, Velleca said. “We still are going to establish a culture of integrity in the department and work on increasing professionalism,” he said. “We understand we need to achieve some results before we get the full support of the public.”
Last October, Velleca was brought in to lead the force after it was hit with multiple lawsuits and a still-pending state investigation.
Without the new officers, Velleca said, it will be tough to keep overtime hours under control, and he doesn’t anticipate reviving the midnight shift from 3 to 7 a.m. During that time, the force relies on state police or call-outs.
He said the department will try again next year. “Our progress wasn’t going to be contingent on these warrant articles,” he said. “We are going to make progress no matter what.”
Residents also rejected the town’s proposed operating budget of $5.11 million, an increase of $70,000, by a vote of 674-702. The default budget is $5.04 million.
Full-day kindergarten nixed
For the second time in recent years, voters in Northwood rejected a proposal to expand kindergarten to a full day. The plan, at a cost of $45,000, lost by a vote of 310-350.
“We’ll have to do more work just convincing the people it’s becoming more important for younger kids,” said school board member Dave Ruth. He thinks the proposal will come up again in the next few years. Both Hopkinton and Merrimack Valley school districts approved their own full-day kindergarten plans last week.
Residents did pass the school budget, 394-259. At a cost of $11.88 million, it is roughly $364,000 less than the current operating budget.
It is the most important article to be approved, Ruth said. “We put in different things that we haven’t had in last few years – technology, science and math,” he said. “All five members of the school board will be really happy that budget passed.”
But for the fourth year in a row, Northwood teachers will not have a contract. The proposed one-year collective bargaining agreement lost by a margin of 121 votes. Teachers won’t see a raise this year. “We will be back to the drawing board, back in negotiations to come up with a new contract for next year,” Ruth said.
A one-year support staff contract lost by four votes.
On the town ballot, Northwood voters said yes to a $145,000 highway maintenance building. And they had an easy time saying yes to a $3.35 million annual budget – after all, had they rejected it, the default budget would have been higher, at $3.45 million.
Voters loosened the zoning restrictions on farmstands in Canterbury and Pembroke.
In Canterbury, the ordinance approved by voters yesterday requires only 35 percent of the products at a farmstand to be produced on the farm or by the owner of the stand. Before, 50 percent of the wares at a farmstand were required to come from its home farm.
That change also removes a requirement that products for sale must be “locally grown,” rewriting the ordinance to say “agriculturally related” instead. That measure passed, 338-175.
Pembroke voters also dropped the words “locally grown” from the town’s farmstand ordinance, and the new ordinance does not require a majority of products at a farmstand to be grown by the owner as before.
The new language passed easily, 227-67.
Epsom town offices rejected
When Ken Brown and Len Gilman set up camp outside the polling station at Epsom Central School yesterday, they were dressed for the job. Their clothes were ordinary. But the yellow signs hung over their shoulders were eye-catching, and their message was clear.
“Vote Yes! Article 1,” the signs read.
But Epsom residents axed the nearly $1.1 million plan to renovate an 1861 meetinghouse into town office space. The measure was defeated 419-422. It would have needed a “yes” from three-fifths of voters to pass.
The old meetinghouse is owned by the town, which has rented its current office space for years. In 2013, Brown said Epsom paid $36,288 to occupy its building on Suncook Valley Highway. That rental rate increases 3 percent each year.
“It’s not extravagant,” Gilman argued. He and Brown served on a town committee to plan for the renovation.
But others balked at the price, which would have been paid for with a 10-year bond. Bob Blodgett, a selectman who is retiring in just weeks, did not support the plan.
“I don’t really think it’s a good move,” Blodgett said. “Our taxes are real high right now.”
The majority of voters agreed.
“I’m not inclined to vote for it,” resident Bill Magan said as he headed inside to vote.
“It’s an old building,” his wife, Gail, said. “That’s going to be costly for maintenance.”
“Whether it’s worth the money, I’m not sure,” Bill Magan added.
Epsom voters also rejected the proposed school budget, in an effort to save $43,000. And they said no to the candidacy of well-known lawyer Tony Soltani, who was running for the school board; the winners were William Yeaton and Gordon Ellis. On the town ballot, Epsom elected Chris Bowes to the board of selectmen. Celeste Decker was named overseer of public welfare, Virginia Drew won the library trustee race and Drew, Herb Bartlett and Marylou Lafleur-Keene won seats on the budget committee.
In Newbury, it was a big night for write-in candidates. David Blohm joined the zoning board with just 43 votes. Daniel Wolf was elected trustee of trust funds with just 13 votes. And Jennifer Goin was elected Newbury town treasurer with a whopping 11 votes. Similarly, in Hopkinton, write-in candidate Jim Lewis needed just 33 votes to become trustee of trust funds.
No comeback for road agent
A Barnstead road agent, ousted this fall when he refused to cooperate with a town investigation into his work, did not win his job back during yesterday’s election.
The selectmen replaced Chris Carazzo with James Doucette on an interim basis in September. Doucette defeated Carazzo yesterday, 515-200, easily making his job at the head of the highway department official.
A letter from the board to Carazzo dated Aug. 30, 2013, stated that among the allegations against him was the claim that he had sold metal belonging to the town and kept the money for himself. He denied those charges to the Monitor this past fall.
Carazzo is also the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former department worker Richard Niolet of Concord.
Selectman David Kerr said he could not comment on the legal proceedings involving Carazzo. But he said he is happy with the job Doucette has done over the past six months in the highway department.
“I think the voters, the outcome of the election, is reflective of what the folks in town feel about the way (Doucette) has done,” Kerr said.
In Belmont, another loss
In Belmont, voters rejected a proposed Historic Demolition Review Committee, which would have been tasked with determining whether a building scheduled for demolition was historically significant, and if so, holding a hearing to review possible alternatives. They approved a $375,000 project to replace town water meters as well as a $7.2 million town budget.
And in a replay of several Belmont elections past, George Condodemetraky came up short, twice. In a race for one seat on the board of selectmen, Condodemetraky came in third place; the winner was Ronald Cormier. And in a four-way race for two seats on the planning board, Condodemetraky came in fourth; the winners were Peter Harris and Rick Segalini.
“I don’t have a fat chance of winning,” said Condodemetraky before the results came out. It was his third time running in three years, and through his candidacy, he said, he tried to plant seeds in people’s minds about the “major problems in this town they can’t see.” One of which, he said, is the lack of a growth plan.
“I still have a lot of spunk left. I got more spunk than these other guys have,” he said. “What I want to do is get the town to make the money to reduce taxes for everybody.”
∎ In Bristol, a zoning amendment that would allow nanobreweries in six zoning areas was overwhelmingly approved.
∎ In Pittsfield, Gerard Leduc beat James Theodore for a seat on the board of selectmen. James Conrad Allard won a race for library trustee. And voters agreed to make the zoning board an elected body, rather than one appointed by the selectmen.
∎ In Boscawen, Betsy Lynch signed up to run for three offices – selectman, treasurer and trustee of trust funds – but lost all three. Voters elected Roger Sanborn selectman. Karen MacKenzie won the race for treasurer. And Tracy Bartlett was named trustee of trust funds.
∎ In Chichester, voters split on a pair of zoning ordinances. They rejected a rewrite of the section on lighted signs but approved a plan to allow the lighting of federal, state, local and military service flags.
∎ In Allenstown, voters rejected a $3.7 million town budget – in favor of a pricier $3.8 million default version. They also approved new rules for raising chickens.
∎ In Deering, voters rejected a plan to switch to the SB 2 form of voting.