SHIRLEY -- Shirley voters said no to three money questions at one of two Special Town Elections on Tuesday. In the other special election, the majority voted Republican.
Tuesday's dual election featured three local questions calling for tax hikes on the town's special election ballot and a separate, statewide contest between Edward Markey, a long-term Congressional Democrat, versus newcomer Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez in the special state election. The two were in a race to serve out the senate term of Democrat John Kerry, who stepped down early to become President Obama's new Secretary of State.
A total of 1,313 votes were cast in the special state election, representing 33.3 percent of Shirley's registered voters. Despite visible indicators that suggested otherwise, Gomez won in Shirley, with 749 votes versus 545 for Markey.
Richard Heos, of the Twelve Visions Party, received 15 votes. The rest were blanks or write-ins, Town Clerk Amy McDougall said.
No Lulls, No Lines
Attendance was steady since the polls opened at 7 a.m., election workers said. "Steady, but not overwhelming, Rachel Sizer said as she checked voters in Tuesday afternoon. A few people were waiting when the doors opened that morning, she said, but no line, then or since.
At 3 p.m., eight hours into a voting day that would end at 8 p.m., the hand-cranked ballot boxes showed 738 votes cast in the town election and 748 in the state election. The difference could be due to absentee ballots, one worker said.
By last year's count, there were 3,986 registered voters in town.
Outside the Town Offices, the town's single polling place, a canopy set up on the grass sheltered a quartet of supporters stumping for Markey. Carolyn McClanahan, Ingrid Adam, Missy Slattery and Charline Oelfke were working their "shift," they said.
There was no corresponding camp for Gomez, however, whose only visible support outside the polls was a stand-alone sign surrounded by tiny U.S. flags, posted at the entrance to Hospital Road and the municipal complex.
The special town election ballot questions, one debt exclusion and two overrides, would up the tax levy by 34 cents per thousand in the first year if voters said yes to all three, adding a total of $70 to tax bills in the first year on a home worth $200,000.
The amount would go down after the first year, since only two of the three questions called for raising taxes permanently.
The first ballot question asked for $160,000 to buy a new dump truck for the DPW and for a Capital Debt Exclusion in that amount. Under the provisions of state law, Proposition 2 1/2, taxes raised for a debt exclusion are tied to the debt term, which in this case is one year.
The second question asked for $20,000 to hire temporary, seasonal workers for the DPW, with the cost tied to a general Proposition 2 1/2 tax override, which raises the tax levy permanently but can only dedicate the money to a targeted expense for a year.
The same goes for the third question, which asked for $8,503 to reinstate hours for the town collector's assistant, which were previously cut.
Voters said no to all three questions on the town special election ballot. A total of 1,304 votes were cast, representing 33.1 percent of the town's 3,942 registered voters.
*Question one: 501 yes, 776 no, 27 blank.
*Question two: 584 yes, 705 no, 15 blank.
*Question three: 457 yes, 827 no, 20 blank.
Asked if they came out specifically to vote for a new senator or to have their say on the town ballot questions, voters interviewed said they were there for both.
John Halloran, who said he's lived in town "since most of the roads were dirt," said he always votes and supported a couple of the town ballot questions, which seemed "quite reasonable" but not all three.
"I think this is a great little town," he said, "but they should pay their help a little more."
As for taxes, he said the town's tax rate is reasonable compared to other area towns such as Lunenburg, where he also owns property. His house there is half the size of his Shirley home, but his taxes are double, he said.
Harold Smith has lived in Shirley all 84 years of his life, as did his father for 95 years before him and his grandfather for 66 years. "I always vote," he said, no matter what the election is for. "It's important that everyone shows up."