SEABROOK — Ed Hess Jr. is the winner of a close four-person selectman's race, and for the first time in a long time, voters approved contracts for the town's four unions.
Last night, numbers were still unofficial, but as of 9 p.m,, Hess had earned 428 of the roughly 1,400 votes cast, with Robie Beckman coming in a close second with 401 votes.
"I'm overwhelmed by the vote," Hess said after he was pronounced the winner. "I'd like to thank all the voters who supported me, all those who worked on my campaign and everyone who ran. I have a lot of work to do. All I can say is that I'm going to do the best I can for the town."
Beckman also thanked supporters and all the candidates for running good races, saying he could be back to run again for town office.
Taking third and fourth places in the race were Maria Brown with 331 votes and Paul Knowles with 172.
Winners of the race for two seats on the Seabrook School Board were incumbents Bruce Casassa and Kathleen Cronin.
As for the passage of the four, three-year union contracts for the Seabrook employees, police, firefighters and supervisory employees associations, their members were not the only ones pleased to get the raises included. According to Selectman Aboul Khan, the four contracts were considered by selectmen as the most important items on the warrant. Their passage changes the town's employee health package and should cut the town's $3.2 million insurance premium price tag in coming years.
The change is expected to lower insurance premiums so much that even accounting for the raises, taxpayers should save at least three-quarters of a million dollars over the life of the contracts.
According to two of the union presidents, Asa Knowles IV of the SEA and Deputy Police Chief Lee Bitomske of the SSEA, once members learned about the new insurance plan, they wholeheartedly supported it.
"It became a no-brainer," Bitomske said. "All the union members got together to discuss the new plan. What was also very important to all the members of all the four unions was that it provided a chance to save taxpayers money."
Voters approved the contracts, each by more than a 400-vote margin.
Voters also rallied round a zoning article that would create the Smithtown district, a pedestrian-friendly business/residential area along the southern portion of town and Route 1, preventing large national retailers from locating more big box stores in the new zone.
Taxpayers were fairly generous this year, passing a number of money-related questions. Voters approved the $18.6 million town operating budget by a substantial margin, as well as the $11.6 million Seabrook School District budget. But voters rejected a citizen's petition that would allow the town Budget Committee to create the town's default budget, which goes into effect when voters fail to pass proposed budgets. Voters also rejected a similar petition placed on the Seabrook School District Warrant.
Passing on the town warrant were articles to fund human service organizations, the purchase of books for the library, cost-of-living raises for library employees, new security equipment for the police department and turnout gear for firefighters, as well as funding to maintain the town wells, town roads, improvements to the public works facility, to replace the roof on the Recreation Center and new wiring for the attic at Town Hall.
Rejected were requests for two other small improvements to the recreation center, a sidewalk plow and new plow truck, resurfacing cemetery roads, repaving Veteran's Park, a truck for the Sewer Department, as well as requests for $630,000 to add office space to the waste water treatment plant and $380,000 for the Seabrook Housing Authority for design work for the construction of a new building.
Estimates are that almost 29 percent of the town's roughly 4,860 voters cast ballots yesterday.