HAMPTON FALLS — Voters elected Lou Gargiulo to the Board of Selectmen Tuesday, then proceeded to approve every warrant article on the town and school ballot they addressed at the polls.
The race between Jim Ziolkowski, the sitting chairman of the Board of Selectmen, and Gargiulo was hotly contested and even angry at times. Letters from candidates and their supporters hit mailboxes frequently during the campaign, carrying messages with accusations, denials and “clarifications.” The rhetoric continued on social media, with disputed issues even popping up at selectmen meetings.
Ziolkowski was running for his second three-year term, with Gargiulo in his first race for the local seat. In the end, voters had the last word with Gargiulo winning with 482 votes to Ziolkowski’s 399.
Set to be sworn in today (Friday) at Town Hall, Gargiulo thanked his supporters.
“I’m really humbled by the trust the people of Hampton Falls have shown in me,” he said. “And I thank my team for their help and guidance, and Jim Ziolkowski for a hard-fought race.”
All other candidates for town and school districts offices ran unopposed.
By almost 100 votes, residents approved the 2019 town operating budget as it was amended at February’s deliberative session, even though Ziolkowski and Selectman Ed Beattie did not recommend it. The two men rejected the new sum after voters at deliberative session increased the budget they offered by $37,000, about the same amount they cut from the Police Department budget.
Voters also supported the Police Department by approving its request for $13,000 to purchase body cameras for officers and related software.
The Fire Department saw strong support at the polls with voters approving the purchase of a new $567,000 fire engine. The money for the engine will not be raised from taxes this year since it had been put aside in four Fire Department capital reserve funds.
Another controversial topic on the warrant was the move to eliminate a number of the town’s existing capital reserve funds (Article 14) and replace it with a broader-based, more flexible expendable trust fund (Article 15). Both questions had to pass for the process to take place, and both did, but by small margins. Article 14 passed by 32 votes and Article 15 by 34.
Two citizens’ petitions were also on the ballot. Voters approved Article 22 by about 600 votes, requiring the town to go back to holding two annual collection days for white goods. This year, selectmen had reduced the collections to once a year. And with a margin of about 400 votes, voters approved officials having to obtain at least three separate estimates before the highway agent can implement projects of $2,500 or more.
On the Hampton Falls School District ballot, voters approved the $6,785,532 budget.
Voters also passed the pivotal question of spending $50,000 to put in new athletic flooring for the gymnasium at Lincoln Akerman School. The dedication of the gym to athletic activities through the new flooring is only possible because the school’s cafeteria will move into its own space, thanks to the new classroom addition currently under construction at LAS.