, Newburyport, MA

March 11, 2014

Seabrook voters head to polls today


---- — SEABROOK — When the polls at the Community Center open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., voters will decide on town and school budgets, a new look for the northern corridor of Route 1, full-day kindergarten, a new ladder truck for the fire department, preserving a local landmark, and who will win two seats on the three-member Board of Selectmen.

Seven candidates are running for two selectmen seats: incumbent Aboul Khan and his opponent Keith Sanborn compete for the three-year seat on the board, while Brendan Kelly, Paul Knowles, Jason A. Janvrin, incumbent Ray Smith and Dennis Sweeney face off for the two-year seat on the board.

Voters will also fill two seats on the Seabrook School Board, choosing between Maria A. Brown, incumbent Michael Chase and Mike Kimball. There are also four candidates running for two seats on the Winnacunnet School Board, Clint Allen Felch and Frances Henderson seek the Seabrook seat, while David Gandt and incumbent Wayne Skoglund are running for the Hampton Falls seat.

Voters face approving or rejecting Article, 5, the town’s $20,220,353 operating budget, which holds more than an 8 percent increase over last year, due mainly to hikes in town employee insurance coverage and raises included in union contracts voters approved last year. A slightly lower $20,220,230 default budget goes into effect if voters turn it down.

For Seabrook’s School District, voters will approve or reject a proposal to implement a full-day kindergarten program at Seabrook Elementary School in September, as well as Seabrook’s school budget of $12,152,467 budget, which is about $76,000 more than last year.

Voters in Seabrook, as well as Hampton Falls, North Hampton and Hampton, will vote on WInnacunnet’s budget of $22,745,010, about three-quarters of one percent more than this year.

Zoning issues are to be resolved on the town warrant, for example, more “big box” retailers would be forbidden if Article 2 is approved. It would create a new commercial zone on Route 1, north of Route 107 to be known as the “North Village,” which would allow buildings no larger than 7,500 square feet on the west side of Route 1 north of Route 107, and not more than 20,000 square feet on the east side of that stretch of road. The idea behind the proposal is to prevent Route 1 from becoming a line of one huge retail store after another, which draws traffic to already clogged roads, and to create an area that encourages smaller businesses.

Voters face a number of big ticket requests on the town warrant, such as Article 14 asking for $175,000 for the first installment on the five-year lease for an $875,000 platform ladder truck. The question is a high priority for selectmen, but it was one of only two warrant questions not recommended by the Budget Committee.

This is the first of three money requests for the fire department. Article 12 requests $75,000 for building repairs and upgrades to the 30-year-old fire station, the first phase of what is expected to be a two-year plan of upgrades, while Article 13 requests $250,000 to remodel the station’s dispatch center and replace all its communications equipment to meet today’s technology requirements.

As they have for decades, voters will consider funding a number of human service agencies that support vulnerable members of the community. Article 6 requests just over $100,000 to be divided up among 22 social service organizations. Article 7 requests $42,700 to support Rockingham County Action, which has an office in town that includes a food pantry and other services to help low-income and unemployed residents. Article 8 requests $20,000 for Seacoast Youth Services, also located in town and offering drug diversion programs and other activities for children and families.

The preservation of the 250-year old Old South Meetinghouse is also in the hands of voters today, when they address Article 36, which asks for $43,000 to put new cement clapboards on the building that has been part of the town’s history since 1764, including serving as Town Hall until 1958. Voters turned down the request last year.

The Water Department is requesting a total of $376,750 in articles, including $178,750 to develop and implement a ground water management plan and $50,000 to clean and rehab all of the town’s wells.

The Public Work Department has seven articles, including equipment purchases of $160,000 for a sidewalk snowplow and $135,000 to replace its 1996 loader/backhoe.

Selectmen hope voters will OK $1.2 million to repair the Seabrook Harbor seawall, given that $200,000 would be derived from taxes, with the remainder coming from grants and contributions.

Money is also requested to assist the young and old in town, including $7,000 to replace two dugouts at Gov. Weare Park, $15,000 for for the children’s playground at the Community Center, and $5,000 to pay for transportation to help elderly and handicapped residents get to medical appointments.