DURHAM — Voters on March 31 ousted an incumbent selectman and chose a political neophyte to serve the remaining year of former Selectman Joshua Libby’s three-year seat.
Kevin Nadeau, with 242 votes, and Todd Beaulieu, with 197, were elected to three-year terms on the Board of Selectmen. Incumbent Michael Stewart received 156 votes, and Scott Farling received 78 votes.
Richard George defeated former Selectman Barry Baldwin for the one-year seat, 237-148.
The election provided a prelude to a five-hour annual Town Meeting at Durham Community School on a snowy April 1. Voters approved a $2.7 million budget for fiscal year 2018, down from the originally proposed $2.9 million; they said no to several articles requesting capital improvements or purchases.
Voters agreed with the Board of Selectmen’s recommendation and chose to remain with Pine Tree Waste for trash and recyclables pick-up at a cost of $620,000. Josh Tice, owner of Tice Waste Management, proposed a less expensive service at $561,000.
Sarah Hall, vice chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said the board was concerned about his inexperience handling a municipal waste contract and a lack of equipment.
Saving money for future big-ticket items and infrastructure repairs affecting public safety and road travel remains an item for discussion. Durham does not have a town department-wide Capital Improvement Plan. Instead, the DPW and Durham Fire and Rescue have their own CIP programs.
Even so, money that Fire Chief Bill St. Michel requested this year as part of his department’s CIP guidelines failed to pass. Article 18 asked for $486,000 to replace Engine 22, now 22 years old.
Voters also agreed to indefinitely postpone action on Article 16, which would have put $50,000 in the Durham Fire and Rescue Capital Improvement Account.
Fire and Rescue Department members expressed their disappointment, and some elected town leaders explained why a CIP is in the town’s best interests.
“Regardless of how you feel about the fire truck,” said newly minted Selectman Nadeau, “it’s good fiscal discipline and planning to consistently put money into a capital account for purchases.”
Resident Alice Mcpeake noted the up-and-down financial swings of a budget in her comment that brought some audience laughter.
“I have not seen a valley, I’ve seen all the peaks as far as a budget is concerned,” she said. “I wish some of you who are proposing these things would put money into my reserve account.”
“I second that,” someone called out from the rear of the school gymnasium.
Discussion of the fire truck became personal at times. Ron Parker, of Shiloh Road, is the Fire Department’s chaplain and an emergency medical technician, although he is not a firefighter.
“I’d still like to speak in favor of the engine,” Parker said. “We live in an area where every time we delay this, we’re making some bank or banks happy.
“We may have saved money this year, but it will cost us more next year or years later. We have a long-range plan that is actually to the taxpayers’ benefit to stick to it,” Parker said.
At the end of the meeting, St. Michel said he was disappointed money to replace Engine 22 was voted down, along with the other CIP investment. However, he was glad voters approved adding per diem staff for emergency medical services. The additional EMS coverage will cost $64,000.
The meeting may have set a record for the number of articles determined by written ballot, Moderator Gary Wood said. Residents got used to the drill and lined up to vote.
While meeting volunteers counted the ballots dropped in a box, Wood kept the meeting moving forward. Residents agreed to act on other articles out of numeric order.
Articles 25 and 26, both for Public Works capital concerns, failed. Voters turned down a request to set aside $37,350 for paving outside the DPW building and $100,000 to put into its Capital Reserve Fund, respectively.
A Capital Reserve Fund works similar to a savings account. Money for expensive road work and heavy duty equipment, such as a plow truck, is set aside until most of it is saved to purchase the item or make a significant down payment.
Durham residents vote on one of many warrant articles facing them in the April 1 annual Town Meeting at Durham Community School.Resident Alice Mcpeake speaks against Article 16 and its request to set aside money in a capital reserve account for the Durham Fire and Rescue Department as Fire Chief Bill St. Michel waits to speak in support of the warrant article. Residents voted to indefinitely postpone taking action on Article 16.