With all that has been going on it seems that the local elections that we held belatedly on June 30th did not garner the usual attention. Indeed, turnout was fairly light with 710 voters casting ballots out of more than 4100 registered voters. None-the-less, important decisions were made and, with a couple of write in candidates jumping in, we had a tight race for the Planning Board.
Construction at the elementary school required us to move town elections to the middle-high school cafeteria. The space worked out well and with school not being in session there was plenty of parking. There was one ballot question as a follow-up to the Annual Town Meeting where voters tentatively approved a capital improvement exclusion of $750,000 for watermain work. Exclusion votes (meaning the funds to be raised are outside the confines of Proposition 2 ½) require approval at Town Meeting and at a town election by ballot. The request passed 539 to 155. The Town’s capital replacement program has recently been relying on exclusion votes that equal what we have stopped paying in interest and principal for borrowed funds resulting in no increases in taxes. We anticipate this topping out at $1.0 million annually, paying for about a third of our annual capital needs.
Alan Wilson was once again re-elected as Town Moderator. Alan is highly respected among his Moderator peers. His preparation for a town meeting is second to none. This past town meeting required a whole new level of planning given COVID 19. But, as usual, Alan’s attention to detail ensured a smooth – and certainly unique – Annual Town Meeting as the Town’s business was conducted outside on the football field!
Voters returned David Shaw as one of three Library Trustees. The three trustees provide important guidance to the library staff and are always trying to look ahead, anticipating the needs of library patrons – a task that has grown increasingly complex in today’s digital world.
Voters also reelected Planning Board Members Chris Onley and Mary Foley. Both bring a passion for ensuring we guide future development in a way that is in keeping with the cherished character of the Town. Two write-in candidates for a third Planning Board vacancy came close to splitting the vote equally but Gary Gilbert ended up winning by 55 votes. It is always good to see residents willing to step forward to run for an elected (or appointed) office. With the new Master Plan as its guide, the Planning Board has a full plate of initiatives to dive into, including the pursuit of a new mixed use “40R” district in the Limited Commercial District, recodification of our zoning regulation, and the diversification of our housing stock.
Matt Harrington became the newest member to represent Manchester on the District School Committee. He is joining the Committee during the challenges of trying to figure out how best to educate students this fall while still protecting the health and safety of teachers and students alike – not an easy task.
For the two open selectmen seats, voters gave green lights to Ann Harrison and John Round. While both are new to the Board, they are not new to town governance. Ann has served on the School Committee and the Finance Committee while John serves on the Historic District Commission. Neither has wasted any time as they have jumped right into the Selectmen meeting topics, taking on new assignments and contributing to the discussions and decisions that are made at the twice monthly meetings.
Coming right up is the state primary election and then the national election in November. With the pandemic still very much with us, voting by mail has been expanded and is available to all voters. You should have received a postcard in the mail recently which you can return requesting a ballot for either or both upcoming elections be sent to you. Primary ballots are due back at Town Hall August 26 and the November ballots are due back October 28. Mail in ballot requests can also be made through the Town Clerk’s Office. Elections are central to our democracy – be sure to exercise your right to vote.