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Joyce Endee

Hibbard wins select board seat in Bethlehem

July 22, 2021
BETHLEHEM — Bethlehem voters chose former Administrative Assistant April Hibbard as the Town's new Selectman and approved a proposed solar array project at the annual Town Meeting on July 13.

COVID concerns earlier this year led the Select Board to delay the Town's deliberative session and annual meeting until the summer months. As a result, voter turnout was much lower than usual, reported poll volunteers.

Despite voter registration numbers surpassing 2,100, less than 450 residents participated in last week's ballot. Key items included Warrant Article Three, 24 and 26, which addressed zoning ordinance language, acceptance of a private roadway and a solar project that could save taxpayers at least $150,000 over the next 25 years.

Hibbard fills the Select Board seat left vacant by outgoing member Mary Moritz. She won the position against opponent Veronica Morris 204 to 180.

Three candidates vied for two open seats on the Bethlehem Planning Board; Alecia Loveless, Peter Roy and Anthony Rodrigues. Loveless took a majority with 274 votes, while Rodrigues secures the second vacancy with a narrow four-vote lead over Roy. All three had previous Planning Board experience.

Chair Andrea Bryant and fellow Zoning Board member Ruth Heintz ran uncontested for their seats. Bryant secured 303 votes, while Heintz received 299.

Write-in candidate John Miller secured 71 votes for Supervisor of the Checklist, as did Rob Constantine, who received 37 votes for Trustee of the Trust Fund. Pamela Hess Newman received 285 votes for Trustee of the Trust Fund.

Carole Hammarberg, Richard Robie Jr. and Christina Clemmo secured Cemetery Trustee positions with 300, 289 and 262 votes. Likewise, Library Trustees Tana LeClair, Sara Plumley and Nora Clark received 266, 269 and 299 votes.

Voters also approved an annual operating budget of $2,855,482, with 276 residents in favor and 127 opposed. The budget amount excluded capital reserve funds for various departments and warrant articles for regional social service agencies.

With a final count of 260 to 146, Warrant Article Two sought and secured voter approval for a zoning ordinance amendment that would allow manufactured homes on individual lots with a special exception. However, the modification still bans such housing from the District One Main Street area and specifies that the units must be placed on a slab or foundation.

Warrant Article Three proposed application language revisions for special exceptions to the town's zoning laws. According to Bryant, the modifications would clarify applicant requests and prevent repetitions during the application process. The article passed 341 to 69.

Bethlehem voters also approved multiple warrant articles to add funds to existing Capital Reserves for the Town's police, fire, ambulance and road departments. Additional Capital Reserve Funds were approved for tech, solid waste disposal, the library and the annual summer concerts.

In a similar vein, all regional social service funding requests met voter approval. A petition warrant article seeking nonpartisan fair redistricting also secured voter approval with a final count of 308 in favor and 92 opposed.

However, a petition warrant article generated by residents of Mountain View Lane and Presidential View Lane failed to secure enough favorable votes from Bethlehem residents. If approved, the Town would have assumed maintenance responsibility for the privately-owned streets at an unidentified cost. Bethlehem voters narrowly denied the request by 35 votes, with a final count of 185 in favor and 220 opposed.

With a 185-vote lead, Bethlehem residents approved a $472,000 appropriation to fund a municipal solar project that would provide electricity to multiple town resources. The Bethlehem Energy Commission successfully secured a $165,000 USDA grant for the array earlier this year.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
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