, Newburyport, MA

May 1, 2013

Voters approve library override

Measure now goes to Town Meeting; Condon and Hunt win selectmen seats

By Angeljean Chiaramida

---- — SALISBURY — Freeman Condon and Ed Hunt, Jr., handily won the two available seats on the five-member Board of Selectmen yesterday, while voters overwhelmingly approved the override ballot question for the new library — the first of two steps needed to fund the construction project.

Condon, a former three-term selectman, earned the most votes getting 1,141 votes from the estimated 1,900 voters who went to the polls yesterday. Hunt, the incumbent beginning his fourth term, received 1,068.

“This feels great,” Condon said. “It was a great campaign and all those who ran are classy people. I’m very grateful, but now the hard work really begins.”

Hunt agreed with Condon on the quality of the campaign, adding that opposing candidates made substantive points during the race.

“It was a very clean campaign,” Hunt said. “Everyone who ran had good ideas. We should listen to them.”

The results for the remaining candidates were Ronald Laffely, 392 votes, Paula Moore, 383, and Thomas Saab, 360.

But the biggest cheer of the night came after those awaiting the results at the polls realized voters approved the ballot question for the new library. With a vote of 1,134 in favor and 733 opposed, the issue now has only one more hurtle to overcome, a favorable vote at the May 20 Town Meeting.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Salisbury Library Trustee Joe Stucker. “We got more than 1,000 votes. We have to take that momentum into Town Meeting because this isn’t done yet. We need people to show up to Town Meeting and we need a two-third vote there.”

Selectmen Don Beaulieu, Henry Richenburg and Fred Knowles said they were thrilled with the library ballot question results, after many years of planning. Another positive sign in town for the project, Beaulieu said, was there was no organized effort to kill it.

“There were no, ‘vote no on the library signs’ in town,” Beaulieu said.

Former selectman Jerry Klima was the winner of the race for Town Moderator. Klima won with a total of 973 votes, over his competitor, Ronalee Ray-Parrott, who earned 792 votes in her first race for town office.

Although pleased at his own win, Klima was more delighted that the library ballot question passed.

“The library (vote) is really wonderful,” Klima said. “I’m very pleased about that.”

The approval of the library ballot question gives permission for the town to bond to pay for about 43 percent, or about $3.2 million, of the $7,452,330. The rest of the money will come from $400,000 in contributions and a state grant for $3,856,187, or 52 percent of the total.

But the state grant only comes into play if the project is approved locally by June 30, the reason a Town Meeting’s approval is so critical this year. Without it Salisbury could wait years before state money is available again.

If Town Meeting gives its OK, the cost of paying off the debt will add from $40 to $50 at year for the first five years for the average residential tax bill. After five years, the debt repayment will be absorbed into the town’s operating budget, as other town debt is retired.

The result of the five candidate race for selectman and the ballot questions drew a huge turnout at the polls for a spring town election. Last year, with no contested races, only 292 people showed up, about 5 percent of those registered. This year, about 32 percent of registered voters cast ballots, sending a steady stream of people to the voting booths all day long, according to Town Clerk Wilma McDonald.