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  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Sign holders cover up against Tuesday morning's rain outside of Campbell High School in Litchfield as they greet voters.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Sign holders cover up against Tuesday morning's rain outside of Campbell High School in Litchfield as they greet voters.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    A voter leaves Campbell High School in Litchfield after voting Tuesday, March 13, 2012.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Voters chat at Lions Hall in Hudson during Tuesday morning's voting.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Voters leave Lions Hall in Hudson after voting Tuesday, March 13, 2012.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Voters line up for their ballots at Lions Hall in Hudson Tuesday, March 13, 2012.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Voters are few and far between at Town Meeting polling places

Election workers across the region suffered through a long afternoon Tuesday as voters continued to flow slowly into local polling places.

In Mont Vernon, poll workers passed the time playing Sudoku while about 200 voters cast ballots, and in Amherst, they walked in and out of the gym at Souhegan High School, trying to catch a bit of daylight between voters.

Poll workers, who counted about 650 voters by noon, were on pace for the lowest turnout in the town’s recent history, according to Steve Coughlin, the town moderator. Town elections can draw as many as 2,000 voters, but Tuesday’s vote threatened as few as 1,300 or 1,400, Coughlin said.

“Honestly, it’s hard to say what it is,” he said. “The weather’s nice, so you’d hope that would bring people out, but you can never tell. ... I can’t remember an election with this little turnout.”

In Amherst, voters faced a pair of notable warrant articles, one proposing to add $200,000 to the town’s road maintenance budget, and another to spend $180,000 to buy a plot of land on Route 101 for new sports fields.

The road funding is essential to maintain the quality of the town’s byways, according to Liz Overholt, a member of the town’s road funding analysis committee who lobbied for the article outside the polls. “We need to take care of our infrastructure. It’s the responsibility of the taxpayer,” she said.

And, as for the playing field question, the town’s current facilities, leased from the state government, are likely to be made into cemeteries in the next year or two, making the 6.5-acre vital to the future of the town’s youth sports programs, according to Wendy Rannenberg, who led the search committee that identified the property.

“If we do not pass this article, we will not have playing fields in this town in the next three years,” she said. “Think how many kids that involves.”

Some voters saw the issues differently.

“This is a lot of money to spend,” said one man, who asked not to be identified. “They’re always spending money in this town. ... This isn’t the time for that.”

Elsewhere around the region, voters faced similar quandaries.

In Litchfield, voters acted on a variety of spending articles, including the town’s $4.96 budget proposal and a $70,000 proposal for a new roof at the police station, which doubles as the Litchfield Town Hall.

“We tried to keep spending down,” Selectman George Lambert said as he waited outside the polls. “We cut where we could cut. Its a very tight budget.”

But, some voters disagreed, decrying the town’s spending level. If it passes, the budget would add 44 cents to the town tax rate, town officials have said.

“It’s ridiculous. They think there’s money coming out of the trees,” Mary Rogers, a town resident, said as she left the polls. “We have to keep our taxes down.”

Across the town border in Hudson, voters weighed the town’s $28.4 million budget proposal, as well as requests for $165,000 for a new ambulance and $500,000 for road paving.

“It may sound like a lot of money, but if we want good roads, we need to pave,” said Charles Ballard, a Hudson resident.

Still, some of the most important most important proposals on this years warrants won’t pay dividends for years to come,

A group of Hudson seniors rallied outside the polls Tuesday with signs supporting an article calling for $300,000 to go toward a future senior center.

“We need someplace to go, someplace of our own to play cards and be together,” one senior said.

“It’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time,” said Andy Renzullo, chairman of the Friends of Hudson Seniors group, which organizes activities around the town. “If this works, hopefully we’ll be here next year asking for voters to approve a new center.”

In Mont Vernon, the few voters that did reach the polls quickly breezed through a short ballot with no contested races and several budget questions.

Outside the Mont Vernon School, Bill Archibald, former chairman of the town budget committee, lobbied voters not to support an article looking to switch the town to a ballot-voting form of elections, also known as SB2.

“Voters really need to be informed in SB2,” he said.

But, most voters saved their energy for Tuesday night’s meeting, when they will address the most controversial question of the day, whether to re-name the town’s noted Jew Pond.

“To be honest, I don’t care either way,” Wally Hooper, a longtime town resident said as he left the polls. “To me it’s a mud hole anyway.”

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or jberry@nashuatelegraph.com.