HARWICH — Incumbent Selectman Michael MacAskill was returned to office in Tuesday's annual town election. Newcomer Stephen Ford also won a seat on the board with an 80-vote margin over Thomas Sherry.
Meredith Henderson won a one-year unexpired term on the Monomoy Regional School Committee over former Selectman Linda A. Cebula.
Voters turned aside two debt exclusion ballot questions for road work. Voters in the annual town meeting had already rejected the $4.5 million request for the reconstruction of 2.5 miles of Lower County Road. That was reaffirmed Tuesday in a 715 to 1,156 vote.
But they also rejected a $700,000 debt exclusion to fund the department of public work's road maintenance program. That vote will have a major impact on road improvements in the town over the next year.
“I've got to put brakes on stuff I had in the pipe line,” DPW Director Lincoln Hooper said of the vote.
Voter turnout was light, with only 19 percent of those registered casting ballots.
“I feel great,” MacAskill said of the 1,268 votes he received. “I got more votes than I thought I would. I really didn't think I was going to win because I've been in a lot of controversial positions this year and I wasn't sure the voters would support me.”
MacAskill said he wanted to congratulate candidate Thomas Sherry, who received 1,002 votes, for running a great race. He also congratulated Ford, who received 1,082 votes, calling him an intelligent man and a person he can work with.
On the vote to reject the road maintenance program funding, MacAskill said it seems to be an extension of town meeting, which turned aside several funding requests.
“I do listen and have heard the voters over the past couple of years and they are tired of spending money,” MacAskill said. “We as a board have to come in smarter, we can't come in with a 7 percent budget.”
MacAskill thanked all the voters who had trust in him, adding “I want the rest of the voters to know I am listening and will work to keep this town great and affordable.”
“I feel great,” Ford said of his 80-vote margin of victory. “I can work closely with Michael MacAskill. I have an optimism for where we can go with this town. We can do more with taxpayers' funds. I think it will be a very positive direction for this town.”
Ford said he clearly wants to follow through with the wastewater project and will continue to push for regionalization with Dennis and Yarmouth. He also said he will support a 2 percent increase in the room occupancy tax, directing it toward wastewater expenses. He said the people who come here and use the resources should help pay sewer costs.
“I also want to thank the taxpayers and voters of Harwich for their support,” Ford added.
Hooper said this is the first time in 16 years he has not had road maintenance funds approved. The ballot question lost on a 932 in favor to 964 against.
“The times are a changing,” he said. He pointed out the state has not yet issued its apportionment of Chapter 90 funds for 2020 yet, but he is expecting it will be in the $700,000 range. The debt exclusion request usually matches the state contribution.
Hooper said in the past couple of weeks he had a road sealing contract for $300,000 approved and this past week approved another $300,000 contract for drainage improvements along Great Western Road. Those contracts may have to be rescinded, he said.
In the other race on the ballot Henderson beat Cebula 956 to 852 for the unexpired one-year school committee term. Henderson, a special education teacher in the Dennis-Yarmouth School District, also serves as a literacy coach and provides professional development and training. She grew up in Harwich and has three daughters in the Monomoy school system.
“It was a happy surprise,” Henderson said Tuesday night. “I'm excited to start a new chapter. The first step is to get sworn in and start doing my homework.”
Tina Games-Evans was unopposed in her bid for the three-year seat on the regional school committee. Games-Evans was appointed this winter to fill the unexpired term on the committee after Stephen Craffey resigned. She chose to run for the three-year term instead of the remaining year on the unexpired term. She received 1,474 votes.
Town Clerk Anita Doucette, running unopposed, was elected to another three-year term with 1,653 votes.
William D. Crowell, also unopposed, was elected to a three-year term as a Trustee of Brooks Free Library with 1,617 votes. Bernadette Waystack, who mounted a write-in campaign for a vacant seat on the trustees, also won election with 130 votes.
Incumbent water commissioner Judith A. Underwood was re-elected to a three-year term with 1,543 votes. There were two members elected to the housing authority. Mark Kelleher received 1,494 votes in his bid for the five-year term, and Kimberly E. Bourgea received 1,486 votes for the two-year unexpired term.
In all, 1,997 voters out of 10,722 registered in town came out to cast ballots.