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Orford rejects bid to make road agent an elected position

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/10/2020 10:27:15 PM
Modified: 3/10/2020 11:11:55 PM

ORFORD — The Selectboard will continue to appoint Orford’s road agent, voters at Town Meeting ruled by a narrow margin on Tuesday night at Rivendell Academy.

The 76-74 result, by paper ballot, came amid several citizens’ complaints about a proposed increase of almost $125,000 in the Highway Department budget, and about the qualifications of — and the $62,000 salary for — recently-appointed road agent Terry Straight. The road budget amounts to more than a third of the total municipal operating budget of $1.16 million, which the gathering later approved by voice vote.

“Town Meeting ... is the only time we have a say on something like this,” resident Jim McGoff said before the secret-ballot vote on the petitioned article for an elected road agent, which ultimately failed by the two-vote margin. “We’re letting all (these decisions) go to three people, without really having our say as townspeople.

“We’re talking about a lot of money.”

That money includes between $1.5 million and $2.5 million worth of road-repair projects the town faces, resident Jordan Sutherland said, adding, “It is critical that we have the right person in the (road-agent) position. What we have right now is not the best.

“We really should consider other options.”

Noting that voters in recent years — most recently in 2018, by a count of 43-24 — have turned aside efforts to make the position elected, resident Mark Blanchard warned against voting for the elective position, given the unlikelihood of voters finding candidates who meet the “walk-on-water qualifications” required, and who also are willing to work for a salary that falls short of “what the real world pays for those qualifications.”

“We’re not a cheap town,” Blanchard said, “but we tend to get very picky about a person’s salary.”

In all, the operating budget amounts to $160,000 more spending than voters approved at Town Meeting in 2019. Among separate spending articles on the warrant, the gathering agreed to appropriate $276,700 to replenish 12 capital improvement funds.

Town Meeting voters did reject, by a count of 103-14, the town’s request to buy a new rescue truck with $200,000 from the fund for fire-department vehicles. Voters also rejected the police department’s request for $5,800 to buy two solar-powered radar speed signs.

In Australian balloting for elected positions, Selectman Fred Kidder II defeated Ruth Hook for a three-year term, 176-89. In 2019, Kidder had been elected to finish out the term of a selectman who stepped aside, while Hook finished third in a three-way race for a three-year seat.

All other elected posts on the Australian ballot showed incumbents running uncontested, and two open Planning Board seats with no candidates.

David Corriveau can be reached at and at 603-727-3304.


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