No New Town Hall

Tuesday May 16, 2023

Newbury Ballot Drop Box

NEWBURY — It’s back to the drawing board for those who believe this town needs a new government center. To decide on the controversial project’s future will be two new leaders on the Board of Selectmen, including one who won without having her name on the ballot.
Leslie Matthews mounted a write-in campaign when her campaign papers were rejected by the town clerk. She won more votes than the two candidates whose names were on the ballot, William DiMaio and incumbent J.R. Colby.
In a sign of the unrest among Newbury residents, incumbent J.R. Colby, was defeated. Matthews received 778 votes. DiMaio came in second with 772 votes, while Colby finished with 763.
Matthews, a member of the town’s Planning Board, said, “I believe that the people of Newbury need someone who thinks independently and doesn’t stay in lockstep with the rest of the Select Board.”
Voters last week by almost two to one rejected the proposal to build an $11.8 million Town Hall. The proposed building at 25 High Road was defeated with 1,098 registered voters in opposition to 576 in favor, according to unofficial results.
The proposed $11.8 million project also failed to win enough votes at last month’s Town Meeting. To move forward, it needed to win in both elections.
The town will continue to operate out of rented space at 12 Kent Way on the west side of town. Proponents wanted to bring Town Hall back to the center of Newbury, where it operated for years until it outgrew the space.
The now vacant old town hall was used as a police station until a new police station was built. Opponents of building a new Town Hall argued that the old building could be renovated.
Bob Conner, a resident who headed the Municipal Building Committee, blamed the loss not on the design of the project, but on the timing, according to Facebook posts.
Some voters expressed concern that the town is already in debt for the police station and faces new expenditures for Triton Regional School buildings.
The turnout for the election was high with about 30 percent, or 1,737 of the town’s 5,718 registered voters going to the polls.
The new Town Hall, which has been under discussion in town for almost 20 years, would serve the town’s needs for the next 30 years, proponents said.
The town will now turn to financing the construction of a 2,800-square-foot vault for the town clerk to maintain the records and technology storage space at its current offices on Interstate 95. To raise those funds will require a general override.
But Jack Rybicki, a vocal opponent of the plan, argued that “The vote was a clear message of prioritizing Newbury tax dollars for coming public education, safety and infrastructure needs,” he said.
SelectBoard chairperson Alicia Greco said the future of the Town Hall proposal would be discussed at the board’s May 23 meeting.

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