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FALMOUTH — Three open seats on the Town Council were filled Tuesday by residents who have never held political office, while the $36.9 million school budget passed easily.
Along with choosing new members of the Town Council and approving the school budget, Falmouth residents also voted to form a new Charter Commission.
Amy Kuhn and Hope Cahan were elected to two, three-year seats available on the council, while Ted Asherman was elected to the two years remaining in a term vacated by former Town Councilor Andy Jones in March.
Kuhn was the highest vote-getter in the field of four candidates vying for the three-year seats, which also included incumbent Councilor Ned Kitchel.
Kuhn received 2,563 votes, Cahan 1,738, Kitchel 1,244 and Jim Chaousis 436, according to Town Clerk Ellen Planer. In the race for the two-year seat, Asherman defeated John Lane, 2,134 to 972.
The school budget, which will add 72 cents to the tax rate of $15.62 per $1,000 of valuation, passed 2,858 to 717.
Two uncontested seats on the School Board went to Nicole Bezanson, who received 2,253 votes, and Whitney Bruce, who got 2,379.
“The voter turnout and community support for our schools is inspiring,” Superintendent of Schools Geoff Bruno said Wednesday morning. “I feel truly fortunate to work and live in a community that values education, believes in building community, and supports the unique interests and abilities of all our kids.”
By mid-morning Tuesday, Planer said the polling station at Falmouth High School had already seen a high turnout. “We’ve been hopping,” she said, while noting that fewer residents than usual had voted absentee, choosing instead to vote in person.
During this election Maine tested out its new ranked-choice voting system for the first time. Ranked choice applied to the primaries for state and federal office, including those vying to run for governor in November.
Planer said election clerks were “getting a lot of questions” and there was “a lot of confusion” around how to use the new ranked-choice system. She said clerks had to be “very careful” how they responded so as not to appear as if they were trying to influence the vote.
Only those enrolled in a recognized party can vote during a primary election and Planer said several Falmouth residents turned up Tuesday to officially enroll.
Kuhn late Tuesday said she was “so grateful” for the support of voters.
“I really look forward to serving on the Town Council and I think this is a great group.” Her goal as a councilor, she said, is to “keep Falmouth a great place to live and work.”
Cahan said she is “very honored to be elected. I’m hoping to make sure that growth happens in a smart way, taking into account all of the (potential) impacts.”
She also said that as a councilor, her role is to make sure the voices of residents are “heard and considered.”
Asherman said he is “thrilled to be able to be a part of shaping Falmouth as we move into our next 100 years. I am truly energized (and) … bring no preconceived agenda … I hope to have an open mind (and) … I see my most important role, as a new councilor, to be that of a listener.”
Kitchel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
All three elected candidates said the biggest issue voters mentioned as they headed into the polling station Tuesday was a proposal for a large, mixed-use development on Route 1 by the new owners of the Falmouth Shopping Center.
The newly elected councilors said people want more information, but also have concerns about possible impacts, including light, noise and traffic.
Residents will have their first chance to weigh in on the project during a Town Council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, June 25.
The vote on the Charter Commission was 2,119 to 1,023. Under its charter, the town must create a new commission every 10 years to review the provisions that govern how the town operates.
In addition to approving the new commission, voter also placed six uncontested candidates on the panel: Karen Farber, David Goldberg, William Lunt III, David McConnell, Richard Olson and Rachel Reed.
According to Assistant Town Manager Amy Lamontagne, those six will be joined by three Town Council appointees.
The hope, she said prior to the election, is for the commission to hold its first meeting in July, with the goal of placing any proposed charter changes on the November ballot.
Town Clerk Ellen Planer said the Falmouth polls were very busy Tuesday, as more people than usual chose to vote in person instead of absentee.