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March 17, 2013

Voters sought change, reduced spending

Big-ticket items fail, incumbents ousted

It was all about change and controlling spending.

When Southern New Hampshire voters stepped out of the ballot booth Tuesday, their voices were heard loud and clear.

They didn’t have to speak out to express their discontent. It was clearly reflected in the vote tallies.

Voters rejected big-ticket projects and ousted longtime incumbents — a sign they are still reeling from the economic downturn that’s gripped local communities for several years, officials said.

That meant a proposed $31 million middle school in Windham went down in defeat as did a $1.7 million kindergarten project in Pelham. Sandown voters killed a proposal for a $945,000 police station.

Defeat of the middle school project also meant the end of School Board Chairman Bruce Anderson’s nine-year reign. Anderson was the project’s leading proponent; opponent Dennis Senibaldi was one of its biggest critics.

Other incumbents bounced from office included James Doggett, a Sanborn Regional School Board member for 24 years, and Atkinson Selectmen’s Chairman Fred Childs, replaced after 12 years.

Newton Selectmen’s Chairman Trisha McCarthy was also booted in favor of Robert Donovan Jr., who resigned from the board two years ago. In Derry, Town Councilors Joel Olbricht and David Milz were tossed out in favor of Mark Osborne and Tom Cardon.

Voters did approve some big projects — scaled-down concepts of past proposals that were defeated as taxpayers struggled to make ends meet.

They include a new police station in Hampstead, approved on the fifth attempt, and a $16.2 million renovation of the Fisk, Soule and Haigh elementary schools in Salem.

But Salem voters rejected a proposal to spend an additional $805,237 on improvements to Haigh due to the possibility it could be closed because of declining student enrollment.

Last year, a $21.5 million plan to upgrade the three elementary schools was defeated. That defeat came only two years after voters approved $22 million for the renovation of Salem’s three other elementary schools.

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