The Valley News has been selected to add two journalists — a photojournalist and a climate and environment reporter — to our newsroom through Report for America, a national service program that boosts local news by harnessing community support.

Please consider donating to this effort.

Haverhill budget’s fate uncertain after vote

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/15/2021 10:08:47 PM
Modified: 3/15/2021 10:08:46 PM

HAVERHILL — Residents at Town Meeting over the weekend ousted the Selectboard chairman and voted against approving the optional meeting procedures Haverhill was following during the COVID-19 state of emergency, creating major budget uncertainty.

In Australian ballot voting on Saturday, Michael Graham defeated Haverhill Selectboard Chairman Darwin Clogston, 514-186.

And warrant Article 2, whose passage was needed to consider more than 30 other articles, was rejected on a 409-264 vote.

Graham, who served on the Selectboard several years ago and runs a family-owned Woodsville insurance agency, said he was running on a platform of “healing Haverhill,” which has been bitterly divided over a plan to create a town fire department and merge the independent district departments into it.

“It actually breaks my heart to see the kind of division the town is undergoing right now,” Graham said on Monday. “I’m not taking my seat with any kind of a personal agenda.”

Graham declined to comment on the fire department question but has previously voiced support for what the independent district departments provide.

Asked about the vote, Clogston, who has served on the Selectboard for four years, said, “He whupped me.”

But he also said, “I’m really happy with the amount of people who turned out. We were told the people’s voice was not going to be heard.”

Haverhill Town Manager Brigitte Codling said she and her staff were working to determine the best way to move forward on the budget, and the Selectboard was expected to discuss the matter Monday evening.

Under the state law passed during the COVID-19 state of emergency to allow for alternatives to the traditional floor Town Meeting, if voters disapproved of the methods another Town Meeting vote could be held before Sept. 1 to adopt an operating budget, or the Selectboard could deem that voters adopted the 2020 budget to serve as the spending plan for this year.

(The election results for officers stays in effect.)

That means Haverhill would have a $4.14 million budget as opposed to the $4.6 million proposal that was on the warrant Saturday. In either case, other warrant articles, such as spending requests for social service agencies and lease payments for the town’s highway grader and newest dump truck, can’t be considered, Codling said via email.

“There will be cuts to other areas of the budget as well, of which I cannot outline for you yet,” Codling said.

“We are doing our best to mitigate the impact to residents.”

She said the “plans for the new Town Fire Department will not be impacted by the Article 2 result.”

The warrant included several articles related to the fire departments in Woodsville, North Haverhill and Haverhill Corner, some by petition, as well as another petitioned article seeking to remove Codling, the town manager, which was advisory only and which the Selectboard unanimously opposed.

Haverhill Town Clerk Christina Hebert said she did not have results on any of those articles because the 32 on the warrant after Article 2 became “moot” with the disapproval by voters of the meeting format.

News staff writer John P. Gregg can be reached at 603-727-3217 or

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy