HARWICH — Despite a selectmen's race and seven Proposition 2½ funding questions on Tuesday's annual election ballot, voters showed little interest in who will run the community or what the cost of living will be, with just 1,758 voters cast ballots, a 17 percent turnout.
In a bit of deja vu, the two new selectmen have previously served in the office. Yet Larry Ballantine and Donald Howell barely out-distancing political newcomer Rob Mador. Only 38 votes separated Ballantine, the top vote-getter, from Mador, with Howell squeezing in between. Ballantine received 1,021 votes, Howell 998 votes and Mador 983 votes. All seven funding questions passed.
“It was very close, but it was a good win,” Ballantine said. “I feel really good about wastewater and Saquatucket Harbor passing. Now it's our job to put it into place. I'm ready to start again.”
“I'm grateful. It was pretty evenly matched and it's clear the public trusted all of us,” Howell said. “I'm extremely grateful to my wife for letting me do this again and I want to thank Sandy Hall and Leo Cakounes for the help they gave me.”
Howell said he plans to wrap up some bylaw/charter committee business on Thursday and then he will sit down with the selectmen and see where they are and where they want to go.
Voters put another piece of the town's wastewater puzzle together, approving funds for the intermunicipal agreement with Chatham that will allow for 300,000 gallons of sewage per day to be treated at the Chatham wastewater treatment plant. It received 1,380 votes in favor to 342 against.
The debt exclusion ballot question sought $9,035,000, of which $6,765,000 will fund the intermunicipal agreement. The remaining money will go toward sewer design in the Pleasant Bay watershed in East Harwich and design of a connection to the Chatham system.
The Cold Brook Project, also part of the town's comprehensive wastewater management plan, was strongly supported by voters. The debt exclusion ballot question sought $2 million to establish a natural nitrogen removal system in the Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve off Bank Street, owned by Harwich Conservation Trust, to abate pollution movement through the Saquatucket Harbor watershed. It was approved by a 1,320 to 387 vote.
“I feel very good, terrific,” Peter deBakker, chairman of the wastewater implementation committee, said upon announcement of the votes. “It was four to one, 80 percent, that's terrific. I'm so glad people realize the importance. Some people had reservations on some of the issues, but in the final analysis they realized taking care of wastewater, addressing nitrogen, is the right thing to do. I'm proud of the people of Harwich.”
Voters also supported the request for $3 million in funding for design and construction of the Saquatucket Harbor landside project. The project includes improvements to the former Downey property, a new maintenance facility, improved parking, and construction of a new harbormaster's office, a snack shack, boardwalk on the harbor and artist shacks and ticket booths at Saquatucket Harbor. The vote was 963 to 735 in support of the debt exclusion question.
“I feel pretty good about the news,” Harbormaster John Rendon said. “We had good support in town meeting and I was encouraged by that, but you just never know when you go to the ballot. It's a plan that will benefit the town as a whole and make Saquatucket Harbor a premier marina.”
Rendon said he anticipates starting the landside project just after Labor Day. He said starting with the Downey property side will not interfere with the boating season. He also cited “good progress” with the permitting of the waterside renovations to the docks and floats, adding that project may start in October.
Voters approved a debt exclusion ballot question for the $1.2 million for facilities improvements at Cranberry Valley Golf Course, including a new solar capable cart barn for electric golf carts; re-skinning and re-roofing of a storage maintenance facility and environmental upgrades; and improvements to the parking facilities and the approach to the club house. That debt exclusion ballot question was approved by an 882 to 824 vote.
Golf Committee Chairman Clem Smith admitted it was a close one. “I think it was because of the complexity of the ballot. We were paying all of the bond obligation and I don't think that got communicated clearly.”
The East Harwich fire station rehabilitation project got start-up funds when voters approved a debt exclusion ballot question request for $310,000 to hire an architectural firm to develop construction plans and bid documents for construction/renovation of the more than 40-year old fire substation. The vote was 1,005 to 708.
Voters also approved a capital exclusion for $420,000 to purchase a new fire department pumper truck and a $700,000 debt exclusion ballot question for the town's road maintenance program.
Voters also re-elected Sharon A. Stout to the Monomoy Regional School Committee with 1,257 votes and newcomer Stephen K. Craffey with 1,218 votes. Brooks Free Library Trustees Joanne Brown and Mary V. Warde were reelected with 1,403 and 1,287 votes, respectively. Water Commissioner Allin P. Thompson was reelected with 1,302 votes. All will serve three-year terms.