April 03, 2019TAMWORTH — Nearly 200 voters turned out and spent hours approving the 2019 Town Meeting Warrant on March 13. Now they are being asked to return to Tamworth Town House April 4 at 7 p.m. to ratify the decisions they made.
They will be asked to vote to confirm, in one blanket move, the election of 13 people who won their seats March 12 and the 21 budget-item votes they took March 13.
State law requires that town officials must post the town meeting notice and warrant in public places no later than the last Monday in February. Tamworth's town meeting notice was posted a day late, on Tuesday, Feb. 26. Elections were held as planned March 12. Town meeting went on until after 10 p.m. March 13 at which point the town's attorney, Matthew Serge of Drummond Woodsum Attorneys at Law, told the crowd the selectmen would be holding special meeting in April to ratify the election and the votes of the evening because it had all been improperly posted.
At a March 28 public hearing, audience members questioned how the error happened and how much the error is going to cost taxpayers. Election officials will have to be paid for the do-over, newspaper advertisements are required, and there may be some additional legal fees. But selectmen did not have a definite answer. They did take the blame and assured the dozen or so in attendance that this would not happen again in the future.
Tamworth Town Administrator Darlene McWhirter told the audience, during the 10-minute public hearing, that when she went to post the warrant Feb. 25, she realized it wasn't signed. Oddly, selectmen signed the warrant on Feb. 21 but the whereabouts of that document is a mystery and they had to sign a new copy Feb. 26, a day late for posting. McWhirter also said Tamworth town meeting has been posted late in the past, "a few times over the years," but nothing was done about it until now.
On election day, 466 ballots were cast and there were two contested races.
In the selectmen's race, Melanie Streeter (318 votes) and incumbent Rebecca Mason (284 votes) were elected to the five-member board. James Hidden lost his bid with 219 votes.
For Fireward-South, Zachary Remick (254 votes) won the seat easily, challenged by Michael Oktavec (58 votes) and Shawn Bross (87 votes).
Other races elected the following officials: Treasurer Annie Burke, planning board members Nicole Maher-Whiteside and Sheldon Perry; Trustee of Trust Funds Robert Seston; Cemetery Trustee Bruno Siniscalchi; library trustees Robin Gordon, Sheryl Power and Nathaniel Winship; and Fireward North Jim Bowles.
The newly elected officials will not be sworn in until after the April 4 ratification meeting.
At the end of the three-and-a-half-hour March 13 town meeting, Tamworth resident David Little told his fellow citizens that all the money articles they just passed would mean the town portion of the property tax rate would increase about $2.12 this year.
One article on the warrant corrected a 2018 mistake. In 2017, voters approved funding for a new fire engine, with one payment charged to taxpayers in 2017 and the balance in 2018. Problem was, when 2018 rolled around, town officials forgot to include the 2018 payment in the bottom-line expenses. So, March 13 voters had to raise the 2018 payment again.
Voters approved the normal budget items to fund operations of town government, transfer station, public safety, library and public works. They voted down a funding request from Tri-County Community Action Program's fuel assistance program but voted in favor of the other 12 non-profits that asked for a donation. Despite the board of selectmen voting 4-1 not to recommend the parks and recreation department budget, after lengthy discussion the $115,000 budget was approved. Voters approved a $150,000 contingency fund to be set aside in case unexpected expenses or emergencies arise during the year. They added $1,500 to pay for a grant writer to write grants for the fire department and $11,000 for the testing of private wells after test results showed elevated levels of PFOS/PFOA contamination from the old town landfill. And, in a 127-55 vote, they approved the town taking ownership of and responsibility for the Tamworth Village Association sewer system.
Voters April 4 will be asked to ratify all of the votes taken March 12 and 13. There was no discussion at the public hearing about what happens if the ratification article fails.