Election Monday: Incumbents Win, Fields Financing Supported


In its annual election Tuesday, Manchester voters offered solid support for sitting candidates while eschewing all challengers.  They also demurred from using town reserves or savings to fund Manchester’s share of athletic turf field replacement scheduled for this summer at Brook Street and Lincoln Street.

In the end, 1,331 residents—or 31 percent of Manchester’s total 4,351 registered voters—turned out for the election at Manchester Memorial Elementary School.  For these voters, there were three consequential votes— Select Board, Planning Board, and the question of how to fund the replacement of two athletic fields.  The rest of the votes were for uncontested seats for Library Trustee, Moderator, Housing Authority, and School Committee.

In the Select Board race, Ann Harrison and John Round won re-election relatively easily, securing 864 and 788 votes, respectively.  Karen Bennett, a first-time candidate challenging the incumbents, made a strong but ultimately lacking showing with 508 votes. 

Bennett did not have any board or committee experience but brought what she called a “common sense” approach and decades of experience in corporate sales and training.  She also serves as the treasurer of Manchester Matters, a group associated with a series of anonymous postcards sent to every resident and business, including one the week of the election that endorsed her candidacy.

The race for Planning Board brought more energy in the campaign season, with newcomers Donna Furse and Marty Flood running as a team and a promised “voting block” to bring what they called balance to the board at a critical time.  Ultimately, however, voters disagreed, voting in Planning Board incumbent Chris Olney (838 votes) and newly appointed PB member Susan Hanson-Philbrick (863 votes) over Flood and Furse, who received 348 and 465 votes, respectively.  

All candidates had participated in a well-attended Meet the Candidate forum on Thursday, May 4, hosted by the Cricket and 1623 Studios, giving voters a chance to hear from the candidates themselves on issues that ranged from Manchester’s move to regional dispatch (following a nonbinding referendum narrowly voted against the move), the “40A” state’s mandate requiring a vote in 2024 on whether to adopt “by right” multifamily zoning near the commuter rail station, commercial development in the Limited Commercial District by Cell Signaling Corp., and how to address the challenge of senior housing in town, among other issues.

Then, before the election, the town filed a report with the Massachusetts Elections Division  after a mistake by Manchester Council on Aging staff who ran a candidate introduction letter from Chris Olney and Susan Hanson-Philbrick in a Friends of the COA-funded newsletter.  In the end, the town apologized and paid for a correction sent to all newsletter recipients before the election.  According to the report, the town spent $70 in taxpayer-funded time and expenses associated with the newsletter.

Finally, voters on Monday approved a Ballot Question on whether to fund Manchester’s share of the needed bond to pay up to $796,740 for a much-needed replacement of two school athletic fields—Coach Field on Brook Street and Hyland Field on Lincoln Street.  The measure passed (753 to 476), which will allow the town to exclude the resulting annual debt payments from Proposition 2 ½ limits.  

At April’s town meeting and in the candidate forum on May 4, the debate fell on whether the new fields should be paid for by debt exclusion or by tapping town reserve funds.  

Support for replacing the fields, after years of complaints alleging field condition-related injuries, has been nearly universal.  Each field will cost about $800,000 to replace.  Because Coach Field is used extensively by non-school programs, the Town of Manchester pays for half of the replacement costs directly.  Voters had already approved this share at April’s ATM, utilizing in large part funds received through Park and Recreation program fees.  

This left $1.2 million to be divided between Manchester and Essex according to the regional school district’s apportionment formula, resulting in the nearly $800,000 noted above as Manchester’s share of the district’s cost (66 percent).  

In other results Tuesday, the following uncontested races for Manchester seats were decided: Elizabeth Heisey won a five-year seat on the Housing Authority;  David Lumsden for three years as a Library Trustee;  Alan Wilson won a one-year position as Town Moderator;  and John Binieris won a three-year seat representing Manchester on the ME Regional School District Committee. 

donna furse, david lumsden, elizabeth heisey, school committee, manchester matters, john round, select board, alan wilson, essex, marty flood, john binieris, karen bennett, cell signaling corp., manchester council on aging, planning board, ann harrison, chris olney, susan hanson-philbrick, manchester memorial elementary school, housing authority, library trustee, hyland field