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By Ski and Sled, Voters Make It to Town Meeting

  • After voting, Sharon Beaufait cleans off her car in Enfield, N.H., on March 14, 2017. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon Mayor Georgia Tuttle shovels the walk at the Kilton Public Library so Ward I voters can get to the polls in West Lebanon, N.H. Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

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    Patrick Teune gives a thumbs up and says "we made it" when reaching the polls in Enfield, N.H. on March 14, 2017. Teune and his wife walked to the polls rather than drive due to the weather. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/14/2017 11:40:05 PM
Modified: 3/15/2017 1:05:39 PM

Lebanon — As she trudged through Colburn Park on Tuesday afternoon, Marie McCormick carried the appearance of a mountaineer, ready for the worst winter could throw her way.

Bundled up, carrying a hiking pack and towing her young son in a sled, McCormick navigated her way through heavy snow and wind during the half-mile trip toward her destination: the polls at City Hall.

“I vote every year. It’s important to weigh in on everything,” she said. “My son had a snow day today, I had a snow day from work, so if anything, it was easier.”

Despite heavy snow and hazardous road conditions across the Twin States, voters such as McCormick braved Tuesday’s winter storm to vote on New Hampshire’s Town Meeting Day.

While some towns chose to postpone votes ahead of the nor’easter, most Upper Valley communities opened the polls and called floor meetings to order during the day. Turnout wasn’t at its highest, election officials said, but voters still managed to beat expectations.

“There’s quite a number of absentee ballots for this sort of election but that’s because people were anticipating the storm,” Enfield Town Moderator David Beaufait said around noon.

“I think (turnout is) ahead of most Town Meetings at this point of the day,” he said. “Usually it’s the opposite with the late-afternoon and after-work rush.”

Enfield has a longstanding policy of holding elections regardless of the weather, unless police and fire officials recommend shutting down, Beaufait said. He brought a pair of snowshoes to Whitney Hall, a reminder of a Town Meeting years ago when they came in handy.

“It was the day after a big snowstorm that everyone had been hyped-up about,” Beaufait said.

“We hold the traditional Town Meeting in the school gym on a Saturday and I live across a field from that, so I made the point of literally snowshoeing to the meeting and put them in front of the podium,” he said.

George Hanna and his family also used the election as a chance to get outside, cross country skiing to Lebanon City Hall on the rail trail.

“The snow was light and fluffy because it’s still cold,” he said. “It was probably faster than walking, and we didn’t feel like driving because the roads aren’t totally clear yet.”

Election officials working the polls at both City Hall and the Lebanon United Methodist Church said turnout was slow and steady. But they expected a dwindling number of voters in the afternoon, when the storm was forecast to be at its heaviest.

“We had quite a few (voters) this morning,” Ward 3 Moderator Bob Therrien said. “I think what they’re trying to do is get it done before this afternoon.”

Traditional town meetings were held in Cornish and Lyme, with high attendance in both towns.

Jeff Katchen said he arrived at Cornish Elementary School an hour and a half early, in part to chat with friends and also to avoid the worst of the storm.

“One of the reasons was just for that reason — for fear that it might have gotten worse,” said Katchen, who was running for an open seat on the Selecboard.

Jim Barker had a relatively smooth drive to Town Meeting, given that his car had snow tires and he lived on a large hill — an advantage that likely would become an obstacle on the way back, he said.

“I’m not looking forward to going home,” Barker said with a chuckle.

In Lyme, plows and traffic moved freely along Route 10, but a brief bottleneck occurred inside the main entrance of Lyme School during Town Meeting when students were let out early because of the weather.

Earlier in the day, Principal Jeff Valence announced to the meeting that the school bus would not travel on Pinnacle Road that day. As a result of the road conditions, Valence said in an interview Tuesday afternoon, the bus would not travel up the road, where two students live. The parents of one of the students were at the meeting, held in the school gym. Valence drove the other student home himself.

Officials in both New Hampshire and Vermont were encouraging drivers to stay off the roads during the storm.

The Vermont State Police reported that driving conditions on interstates 89 and 91 were “extremely difficult” and commuters were likely to face whiteout conditions.

Drivers who slid off the road were being instructed to call Vermont State Police, which would provide safe transportation. Police were not allowing cars to be towed during the storm because of safety concerns.

In the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, a 16-year-old girl was killed Tuesday morning after losing control of her sedan in the town of Gilford. She was later identified as Ava Doris, the daughter of Gilford police dispatcher Tim Doris, in a Facebook post by the Gilford Police Department.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223. Staff writers Rob Wolfe and Aimee Caruso contributed to this report.




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