George Ouellette, photo
I think people are looking – they want to see change.
ST. ALBANS TOWN — In the highly anticipated selectboard races, new faces emerged as the top runners in Tuesday votes. In addition, all ballot items passed, including the article for a local option tax and the school budget.
For the three-year selectboard position, newcomer Stanley Dukas beat out now former vice chair Bill Nihan with 742 votes to 367.
Dukas spoke with the Messenger Tuesday night about his win. “I’m just extremely pleased with the support I got and the platform I ran on [of improving relationships with the city],” he said. “The numbers were overwhelming. I think the people of the town have spoken.”
Nihan was a veteran of the selectboard having served since 2002. He came in to office with a nine-vote recount victory in his first race and had similar close races in 2006, when he won by a single vote, and 2011 when he won by 14 votes.
Bruce Cheeseman also won a two-year seat over one term incumbent Steve Coon, 626 votes to 449. In a phone interview Tuesday evening, Cheeseman said, “I just want to thank all the voters. It was a great turnout.”
More than 1,150 town residents came out on Tuesday, more than a quarter of the 4,239 registered to vote. “I think people are looking – they want to see change,” Cheeseman said. “The townspeople are finally sick of listening to same old, same old.”
Dukas and Cheeseman attributed their wins and the voter turnout to frustrations stemming from the inability of the town to work with the city regarding water and wastewater services, and also the police deal decision made in December 2013 with the St. Albans Police.
The town decided to extend its contract with the city one more year until June 2015, though the selectboard almost hired the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, which would have cost $150,000 extra and was against the wishes of the majority of voters.
Selectboard chair Bernie Boudreau said by phone today that he also felt the selectboard race outcome showed townspeople want a change. “If people don’t like or have an issue with what’s going on in the town, their first reaction is change,” he said. “You can’t argue with a vote.”
Boudreau added that he was excited to hear thoughts and new ideas from Dukas and Cheeseman.
“I think it’s time we get in gear,” Cheeseman said. Both he and Dukas said they were looking forward to getting started, and Cheeseman specifically said that resolving the city and town water and wastewater issue was the first item on his list.
In addition to electing new selectboard members, voters re-elected incumbent Meaghan Malboeuf as library trustee. Malboeuf beat out Cynthia Rugg with 572 to 438 votes.
Town voters passed all of the ballot items. The hottest issue was the local option taxes set forth by Article 4, which passed with 732 yes votes and 392 no votes.
Boudreau expressed his excitement today over the local option taxes being passed. “I couldn’t be happier. It was probably the most important thing on our ballot,” he said.
A one percent sales tax will be applied to item sales in St. Albans Town already taxed by the state, and the estimated $350,000 in collected revenue each year will be deposited in a reserve fund set up for use on existing and future infrastructure projects for the town. According to previous statements from the selectboard, about 86 of purchases made in the town are made by non-residents. Before any infrastructure projects move forward, they will have to be presented in a public meeting and approved by voters.
Voters also passed a $3,968,826 budget with $3,272,122 to be raised in taxes with a 606 to 417 vote, and approved the use of $100,000 from last year’s general fund balance to offset the budget costs with 1,001 yes votes and 128 no votes.
Voters approved the purchases of a plow truck and loader for the Department of Public Works and also a pumper truck and for the Fire Department. The most closely contested ballot item was Article 10, which authorizes the selectboard to spend $7,500 in support of the St. Albans Raid 150th Anniversary Commemoration. The article passed with 589 votes to 533.
The St. Albans Town Educational Center budget of $10,336,606 passed (732-392) as did the Article 5 (865-263), which approved the use of $178,000 of the 2013 fund balance reserved for capital improvements for various building and grounds improvements, debt retirement and other items.