Edgartown Sees Light Turnout; Override Spending Approved

By JAMES KINSELLA

In an election gripped by calm, Edgartown voters yesterday approved 12 borrowing and spending proposals and ousted an incumbent from the board of health.

In the contested races, challenger Kevin L. Searle defeated incumbent David J. Murphy 264-202 for a three-year seat on the board of health. Timothy K. Connelly defeated Jay Guest 318-140 for a three-year term on the wastewater treatment commission. Incumbent David J. Blackburn, with 343 votes, and newcomer Herbert L. Foster, with 228 votes gained the two available seats on the library board of trustees. Richard L. Feen, who had been appointed a library trustee to fill a vacancy, placed third with 221 votes.

By a vote of 327-163, the voters decided to allow the town to borrow up to $1.5 million toward the construction of a new public supply well near Pennywise Path. Voters also agreed 345-161 to allow the town to borrow $465,000 toward the purchase of a new fire pumper truck, and 263-240 to allow the town to borrow another $600,000 toward payment of the construction costs of the new Chappaquiddick fire station. The votes will allow the town to exempt the debts from the tax levy limit specified under the state law known as Proposition 2 1/2.

Voters approved the public well and fire truck at the annual town meeting Tuesday. The Chappaquiddick proposal was also approved at last year's annual town meeting.

Edgartown voters yesterday also approved a number of proposals whose costs will be paid in the fiscal year starting July 1. The votes will allow the town to exceed its levy limit under Proposition 2 1/2.

Voters agreed 358-148 to assess an additional $34,500 for maintenance and repairs at the police station; 259-242 to assess an additional $36,250 for a new pickup truck for the shellfish department; 346-155 to assess an additional $223,646 to operate and maintain the town dredge program; 352-152 to assess an additional $150,000 to resurface and rebuild various town streets; 369-136 to assess an additional $125,000 to build and repair sidewalks and catch basins; 285-210 to assess an additional $57,606 to fund the town's share of the costs of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority; 365-137 to assess an additional $75,000 to replace the generator used for the Dock street pump station and town hall; and 351-147 to assess an additional $75,000 to replace the mechanical bar screen at the wastewater treatment plant.

A question to allow the town to assess an additional $279,400 to build a bicycle path on Meschacket Road appeared on the ballot but was moot because it was indefinitely postponed at Tuesday's annual town meeting. Town officials plan to revisit the issue next year as part of a larger project.

In uncontested races, Arthur Smadbeck was re-elected to the board of selectmen with 420 votes; Laurence A. Mercier was re-elected to the board of assessors with 424 votes; Thomas Durawa, Morton Fearey Jr. and Malcolm W. Reed Jr. were re-elected to the financial advisory committee with 431, 383 and 374 votes, respectively; and Leslie Baynes was re-elected to the school committee with 412 votes.

Alison D. Cannon was re-elected to a five-year term on the planning board with 414 votes and William C. Bishop 3rd was elected to a three-year term on the planning board with 418 votes.

Wanda Williams was re-elected town clerk with 473 votes; Melissa Kuehne was re-elected town tax collector with 436 votes; Glen Searle was re-elected to the park commission with 457 votes; and William Erickson was re-elected to the water commission with 417 votes.

A total of 518 voters, 18 percent of the 2,885 registered voters in Edgartown, participated in the election.

Ms. Williams, the town clerk, said turnout was lower than usual. She said Edgartown turnout more typically runs in the 25-28 per cent range.

Asked her opinion on what contributed to the lower turnout, Ms. Williams pointed to the lack of a controversial spending question or high-profile electoral race.

She also said the weather – with rain giving way to sunshine that pushed temperatures into the 50s – also might have played a role. "Too nice," the veteran town clerk said. "People had other things to do."

Mr. Searle, elected to the board of health, declared himself happy with the results. Mr. Murphy, a longtime incumbent, said he had no reaction to the vote.

Mr. Foster, learning of his election to the library board, responded with a "wow." He said he looks forward to carrying out the proposals put forward during his candidacy.

Mr. Blackburn, chairman of the library trustees, said he was pleased to be voted back onto the board, which is working on an ambitious expansion project for the town library.

"I feel like I have a lot to do," he said. "This will give me more time."