Huntington voters approve overrides for library, ambulance service

  • Amanda Loiselle, the director of the Huntington Public Library. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/4/2022 10:17:12 PM

HUNTINGTON — Ballots in town were still counted by hand and when a chorus of “yes, yes,” exclamations could be heard from the teams counting votes following Saturday’s special election, it was a sign that voters had approved two Proposition 2½ overrides to fund their public library and ambulance service.

The $86,328 override to fund the library’s budget passed by 169-71 votes, according to unofficial results, while the $58,777 override to fund the ambulance was approved by a 177-62 margin.

In total, 240 voters out of 1,628 certified registered voters in town cast their ballots, a 14.7% turnout. There were also two ballots cast that were disallowed.

“We were hoping for it, we were not counting on it,” said Karen Wittshirk, chairwoman of the board of trustees of the Huntington Public Library, on the library vote result.

If the override for the library had failed, it would have faced closure on July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, unless another source of town funding was found. Because of state law, the ambulance service has to be funded, regardless of the override’s outcome for that service.

Supporters of the library are not resting on their victory, as the overrides must now pass at Monday’s annual Town Meeting, which will start at 7 p.m. at Stanton Hall.

“We still need people to get out here,” Wittshirk said.

A number of voters shared their thoughts on the overrides outside of the polls, including Jesse Harmon, who supported both of them.

“It says something if you don’t have a library in town,” he said.

He and his wife, Kate, moved to Huntington five years ago from Brookline, and he said a requirement for moving for him was that the town they moved to had a library.

Kate Harmon also voted for both overrides. She said people aren’t aware of what she characterized as the overrides’ low cost.

“Next time if we have a vote like this, I’m going to volunteer to do flyers for the whole town,” she said.

For the average residential property in Huntington, which is assessed at $238,600, the cost of passing both overrides will be an extra $147.93 a year.

Wife and husband Brianna Sloane and Andrew Roberts voted for both overrides as well.

“I think taxes exist to pay for what we need,” Sloane said. “And we need a library and we need the ambulance.”

Sloane also noted that her family of five uses the library “all the time.”

“We love the library,” said Roberts, who also pointed to the importance of ambulance service.

Another library and ambulance supporter was Kimberly Kelliher.

“I don’t want to see the town lose those services,” said Kelliher, who grew up using the public library in South Hadley.

“We were so excited to use it,” she said. “I think it was a big help in my education.”

Philip Nelson was among those who voted against the library override.

“My taxes went up $800 this year,” he said. “So I said no.”

He chose to vote for the ambulance override, however, because the town would still be required to fund it.

David Harris said he voted against both overrides.

“There’s so many other things that need to be done in this town,” Harris said. “The library to me is a waste of money.”

Harris also said that things are only going to get worse for the town financially and that it doesn’t make sense to raise taxes in these times.

“We really don’t need a library at this stage of the game,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.
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