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Voters reject override and building projects; Browse, Coolidge win library board seats

Three-quarters of Harvard’s 4,376 registered voters took no part in Tuesday’s Town Election, leaving several major decisions about the town’s future up to the 1,150 voters who did show up, either at the polls or by absentee voting. Nonetheless, that was a higher turnout than any in the past six years except for 2018, when the new school building project drew many voters to both Town Meeting and Town Election.

All four financial questions on this year’s ballot were defeated. The failure of the general override requires town and school officials to cut about $320,000 from the budget passed by Town Meeting last Saturday. Both Town Administrator Tim Bragan and School Superintendent Linda Dwight have already identified cuts, as part of a contingency plan to deal with a failure of the override and expected cuts in fiscal 2021 state and local revenue.

The other three losing questions were all tied to specific projects: expansion of Hildreth House to a new building; an emergency exit ramp for the middle school wing of the Bromfield School; and a new roof for the old library. All three losses were decisive, but the gap grew wider as the projects grew more expensive, with the most costly project—the Hildreth House expansion—losing by the biggest margin.

In the only contested election for a town board, Gail Coolidge and Cary Browse were elected to three-year terms as library trustees.

Incumbents Rich Maiore and Kara Minar will be returning to the Select Board. Incumbent SusanMary Redinger was reelected to the School Committee, along with newcomer Abby Besse. Besse won with a write-in campaign and will fill the seat left vacant by the departure of John Ruark.

For the Warner Free Lecture trustees, Alison Thornton will be joining the board for the first time. Lisa Foley, the current chair, was reelected to the board with write-in votes.

Roughly half the voters who took part in the election chose to cast their votes early by absentee ballot. For those who wished to vote in person, the polls were open Tuesday from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Bromfield School cafeteria. Town Clerk Marlene Kenney said voting was steady throughout the five-hour period, with lines of as many as a dozen persons sometimes forming as people maintained their 6-foot distancing requirement.

Because of the many early ballots and the write-ins, the preliminary election results did not go up on the Town Hall website until shortly after 10:30 Tuesday night.

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