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Hampden election ballot features two questions with little impact on residents

Date: 4/30/2015

HAMPDEN – A pair of questions on the ballot for the May 4 Annual Town Election may not have much impact.

Both nonbinding questions – one concerning Common Core State Standards and the other regarding postponement of the $2.95 million police station project – were the result of citizen’s petitions, according to Town Clerk Eva Wiseman.

“If [these] go to the ballot, which I’m expecting [they] will, I don’t think it’s really going to matter,” she said.

The police station ballot question asks voters if they support the town postponing or delaying its commitment to construct the new police station due to current discussions regarding possible changes at Thornton W. Burgess Middle School.

Town Counsel David Martel said that question is nonbinding because residents already approved a debt exclusion override at the 2014 Annual Town Meeting.

“That process, to be undone after a debt exclusion override, would not be appropriate,”?he added.

Martel said the town has already entered into an agreement with the project’s architect and if the project were delayed, “that’s a problem.”

The town would also be in breach of contract if the police station question were acted upon if the town signs with a builder, Wiseman said.

Police Chief Jeff Farnsworth said an agreement has not been signed with a builder at this time.  

Question One on the ballot reads, “Shall the town Hampden vote to support the federal government’s Common Core standards initiative for K-12 funded by your local tax dollars?”

Wiseman said Question One is essentially an opinion poll.

“Let’s face it, if it’s a federal program and they’re saying, ‘You got to do it,’ you can tell them you don’t want to, but I don’t think we’re going to get away with that,” she added. “So, we can voice our objection to it and it’s basically working like an opinion poll.”

Wiseman noted that she anticipates a 15 to 25 percent turnout during the Town Election.

“Hampden has a pretty good turnout for lesser ones,” she added. “We’ve had a couple of elections where we’ve had absolutely no races [and] absolutely no ballot questions and we’ve still drawn a couple hundred people to that.”

Typically, topics that bring the most voters to the polls are debt exclusion votes, Selectmen races, any issue regarding local schools, tax increases, and presidential elections, Wiseman said.

The candidates for cemetery commissioner, the only contested race, are Democratic Caucus nominee Timothy Connors and independent candidate David Atsales. The position is a three-year term.

The list of uncontested candidates includes incumbent Robert Howarth for moderator, Republican Caucus nominee Edward Loiko for a one-year term on the Planning Board, incumbent Republican Caucus nominee Norman Charest for a three-year term on the Board of Selectmen, Eric Jacobson for a two-year term as park commissioner, Republican Caucus nominee Melissa Paige Gore for a five-year term on the Planning Board, Raymond Crowley for a three-year term as a library trustee, incumbent School Committee member and Republican Caucus nominee Lena Buteau, and incumbent independent candidate David Paradis for a three-year term as a park commissioner.

Five-year and one-year terms on the Housing Authority yielded no candidates.