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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jewett loses race for board

LITCHFIELD – Longtime municipal official Patricia Jewett lost her selectman’s seat Tuesday, ending a long run in which she had made key decisions for the town and School Board.

Jewett gained the fewest votes in a three-way race for two open selectmen’s seats, notching 732. Last year, Jewett didn’t run for re-election on the School Board.

Incumbent Selectman Frank Byron got the most votes, with 801, and Brent Lemire won the other selectman’s seat with 799 votes.

Voters also passed all spending measures on the ballot, including a $4.47 million operating budget for next fiscal year. Next year’s budget is $50,000 less than this year’s budget.

Also, in a move to help reduce taxes, voters approved a measure that will allow the town to set aside less money for conservation acquisitions.

Voters agreed in 2003 to place all current use tax revenues into the conservation land acquisition fund. The commission has bought several parcels with accrued funds, and now has a balance of nearly $900,000 to buy more land.

On Tuesday, voters changed the formula for the fund: now, 80 percent of current use tax revenues will go into it, and 20 percent will be deposited into the town’s general fund to offset the tax rate.

Residents also passed a new collective bargaining agreement for police officers. The contract gives officers raises of 1 to 2 percent along with incentives to reduce overtime.

Also, voters agreed to allow selectmen to hire the town treasurer and fire chief, rather than having people run for the job in townwide elections.

Selectmen will now have the authority to run background checks for the jobs, they said, and the appointment process would widen the talent pool by letting selectmen hire nonresidents.

Fire Chief Thomas Schofield won re-election to the post last year. Sharon Harding-Reed won re-election to the treasurer job Tuesday.

The ballot article proposing the change to the fire chief job doesn’t specify what happens to the person who has it. But the ballot article on the treasurer job states that its holder must vacate the office next March, regardless of how long a term the officeholder has.

Voters also agreed to shift fire hydrant funding to the town, rather than water service ratepayers.

As it stands, some people live near hydrants but have wells and don’t help pay for them. Now, everyone will pay for hydrants, even those whose neighborhoods will never get them. As a result, of course, the charge per household will be lower.

Also, in an uncontested race for two municipal Budget Committee seats, incumbent Raymond Peeples and resident Chris Pascucci won.

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-5832 or