There were some striking results on Tuesday when the votes were counted, very much in keeping with the New England Town Meeting tradition of spirited debate.
As expected there were some close votes, as there always seem to be come Town Meeting season.
Exeter area voters approved an addition to the Cooperative Middle School by a whisker — 60.69 percent, with a 60 percent vote needed to borrow for the $17.8 million project.
In Barrington, the effort to build a new library/community center failed to reach the needed 60 percent threshold but did receive support by a majority of voters, most likely assuring the proposal will be back before voters next year.
Elsewhere, voters approved or disapproved many projects by landslide amounts.
Durham voters approved a $2.68 sewer line replacement plan with a nearly 88-percent majority.
In Newmarket, voters approved $12.2 million for water and treatment system upgrades and a $2 million bond to renovate Macallen Dam. Both passed by plus or minus 80 percent.
Lee voters defeated a proposal for a $4 million town center plan to upgrade the library and Town Hall by a vote of 336-442, well below the 60 percent mark.
Regardless of the particular result, we saw spirited debate on all fronts.
That debate for the most part, however, did not take place on the floor of traditional town meetings with residents taking to the floor to debate measures. Instead it took place over months leading up to Town Meetings held under what is known as SB 2, a state law that requires a deliberative session to potentially amend warrant articles followed by ballot voting several weeks later.
The transition to SB 2 has been a rocky one for many communities. It is a complicated law with a steep learning curve and may not be right for every town. But as we watched issues debated at deliberative sessions, on social media, on public access cable TV, in the pages of our newspapers and at the polls on Election Day, we marveled at the spirit of those pressing their issues.
For the most part, that spirit showed respect of those holding countering views, unlike what we have seen on the national stage.
As we move toward national elections in 2020, it is our hope New Hampshire with its first-in-the-nation primary can set an example of good faith debate with the political eyes of the nation on us.
Before we wrap up looking back at Tuesday’s Town Meeting results, we would like to make special note of efforts in Barrington and Newmarket.
Barrington voters had some tough choices to make. They were asked to vote on two big-ticket items. While a majority of voters approved of both the new library plan and the one for a new town hall, only the latter received the 60 percent majority needed to pass.
Both of these efforts are worth praise. Supporters were open about explaining what they saw as the need for their projects. Facts and figures were presented clearly and made easily accessible. In the end, voters determined that only the town hall project was within reach of their pocketbooks.
Meanwhile, library supporters have laid the foundation for next year’s appeal.
We would also make note of the Macallen Dam project in Newmarket. The decision by community leaders to propose replacing the dam was not made in haste. It was studied at great length with the final proposal being liberally aired at public hearings, on public access TV, through social media debate and on the pages of our newspapers. It is also process that took several years.
Such due diligence paid off on election by near 4-1 voter approval.