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Reilly Tops Select Board Slate; Degen Reelected To 4th Term; $5.9 Million In Overrides Approved

John Reilly, at left, celeberates his election to Select Board

by Robert Stewart,

 

   Newcomer John Reilly topped a field of four candidates to win a three-year term on the Select Board in the only contested race at town elections this year. Reilly will replace member Barry Pease who did not run for reelection as he has moved out of town. 

  Select Board member Josh Degen won his bid for reelection to a fourth term as he placed second in the polling. Reilly received 1006 votes or 32 percent of the vote while Degen received 770 votes or 24 percent of votes cast.

   Former Select Board member Jack Petropoulos placed third in the balloting and fell short of his bid to regain a seat on the five-member board. The fourth candidate in the race to fill two seats on the Select Board, Brooks Lyman finished fourth in the balloting. Petropoulos received 611 votes or 19 percent of the vote while Lyman finished with 373 votes or 12 percent of the vote.

   One of the surprising results in the race for Select Board was the number of blanks recorded. With two seats open for election and four candidates seeking those seats, the number of blanks recorded or the number of voters who did not cast both their votes was 370 or 12 percent of votes cast. 

  Town Clerk Mike Bouchard said the number of Blank votes in a contested race struck him as high. Bouchard interpreted that result as a higher voter interest in the Override Questions than in the Select Board race. “It was the Ballot Questions that drew interest,” Bouchard said. He noted that while the Blank voters represented 12 percent of votes cast for Select Board candidates, the blank votes on the override questions were in the single digits. 

   Bouchard also noted that the high number of Blank votes could also reflect what he termed “Bullet” votes whereby some voters may have voted for only one candidate and not cast their vote for another candidate. With two positions open for election on the Select Board, voters had two votes to cast for that board. Bouchard believed it was a combination of these factors that contributed to the high number of Blank votes.

   However, some observers of local elections believe the relatively high number of blank votes in the Select Board race represents a lack of faith among many voters in the leadership provided by the Select Board. 

  They note that with a new candidate receiving the highest number of votes along with the relatively high number of blank votes, it points to unhappiness among some voters with the leadership of the Select Board.

   In the other contested issue at Town Elections, voters approved both Override Questions which will allow the town to increase its tax levy to pay for renovations to the DPW facilities and construct a new roof on the library. 

  The DPW Question narrowly passed by 25 votes while the Library vote passed overwhelmingly by more than 400 votes. Question One which asked voters to increase the town’s tax levy to pay debt service on $4.8 million to renovate the DPW facilities received 785 votes in the 

affirmative while voters opposed to the Question numbered 760. 

   Question Two asking voters to increase the tax levy to pay debt service on $1.1 million to construct a new roof on the Library was approved with 995 votes while voters opposed to the Question numbered 554. Combined, the two projects will increase the town’s tax levy beyond 2 ½ percent to pay debt service on $5.9 million.

   In other election results, two write-in candidates won election to different boards – the Park Commission and the Planning Board. On the Park Commission, Kenneth Bushnell won reelection with 1150 votes. The other three-year term open for election on the Park Commission was won by Jon Strauss who received 107 write-in votes. For the one-year seat open for election, Don Black was elected and received 1107 votes.

   On the Planning Board, a one-year position was open for election and Annika Nilsson-Ripps won election to that seat by received 76 write-in votes. Nilsson-Ripps had taken out nomination papers during the nomination period but returned them late because of confusion over the deadline time. For the two, three-year seats open for election on the Planning Board, both George Barringer and Gus Widmayer won reelection to their respective positions.

   On the School Committee, Marlena Gilbert won reelection to her three-year seat by receiving 1015 votes or 32 percent of votes cast. The other three-year position open for election on the School Committee was won by Erica McConnell who received 1043 votes or 33 percent of votes cast.

   Turnout for this year’s town election was relatively light with 19 percent of voters going to the polls.  According to the Town Clerk’s Office, 1572 voters cast ballots out of a total 8181 registered voters. Precinct One which includes West Groton normally has the highest turnout of Groton’s three precincts. That was not the case this year as Precinct Three which includes most of Groton Center had the highest turnout. Precinct One recorded an 18.9 percent turnout while Precinct Three had a 21.2 percent turnout. Precinct Two which includes the Lost Lake area had a 17.6 percent turnout. Town Clerk Mike Bouchard said while the turnout was respectable it was on the “light side” in comparison to past Town Elections. Bouchard said that prior to the election he was predicting a 25 percent to 30 percent turnout based on a contested Select Board race and two override questions.

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