Bridgton: Town Hall challenged rejected; Watkins wins big, McHatton by one vote

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

The “Save Our Old Town Hall” movement carried the day Tuesday in Bridgton, as did funding for the Lakes Region Bus, but voters soundly rejected a third question seeking to prevent changes to existing sewer system allocations.

Newcomer Greg Watkins was the biggest-winning candidate, earning one of two seats on the Board of Selectmen with 476 votes — 113 votes more than the other person elected, 25-year veteran Selectman Bob McHatton Sr. The other political newcomer, Robert Murphy, was only two votes shy of McHatton’s tally, however, and requested a recount early Wednesday morning.

“It’s too narrow a margin for that many votes,” Murphy said. Town Clerk Laurie Chadbourne said she expected the recount to take place sometime this week.

UPDATE: A recount late Wednesday determined that McHatton edged Murphy by one vote. D. Steve Collins was selected as the Recount Supervisor, while Marguerite Wiser was the Recount Assistant. The Counting Team included Dawn Taft (Republican) and Rosemary Wiser (Democrat).

Despite not having his name on the ballot, incumbent Doug Taft made a respectable showing with 198 votes, coming in last in the four-man race. Taft did not return papers but reconsidered after being approached by Selectman Chairman Bernie King.

The biggest draw to the polls, however, weren’t local elections, which were all uncontested other than the selectman’s race. All three citizen petition referendum questions were hotly-debated, and with the strong showing of support on both sides, the outcome for some was hard to predict.

Voters followed the recommendations made by Selectmen not to delay spending funds to repair the Town Hall, and to deep-six an effort on the part of some Main Street property owners to forestall any changes in the way the downtown sewer system is managed.

But voters parted ways with the 3–2 board majority recommendation against funding the Lakes Region Bus. The 460 ‘yes’ 370 ‘no’ vote total was in no small way the result of an aggressive public education effort on the part of supporters of the Portland-to-Bridgton commuter bus service by Regional Transportation Services. The weekday service is now certain to start next month, thanks to the required voter support it has received in all five towns along its route.

Voters also passed amendments to five ordinances as drafted by the Planning Board. Preliminary results as posted on the town’s website are as follows:

(* indicates winners)

Selectman (Vote For 2)

* Greg Watkins — 475

* Bob McHatton Sr. — 362

Robert Murphy — 361

Doug Taft (write-in) — 198

(Other write-in votes: Bob Wiser, 3; Glen “Bear” Zaidman, 2; Scott Finlayson, 2)

Lakes Region Bus

* Yes — 460

No — 370

Town Hall

Yes — 382

* No — 450

Sewer System

Yes — 262

* No — 544

Planning Board, regular (Vote for 2)

Dee Miller — 565

Mike Figoli — 531

(22 write-in votes)

Planning Board, alternate (Vote for 1)

* Cathy Pinkham — 8

Mike Figoli — 3

SAD 61 Board of Directors (Vote for 2)

Karla Swanson-Murphy — 573

Dorothy Stoddard — 479

(12 write-in votes)

Bridgton Water District (Vote for 1)

Todd Perreault — 669

(5 write-in votes)

Tower Ordinance

* Yes — 424

No — 290

Site Plan Ordinance

* Yes — 407

No — 281

Sign Ordinance

* Yes — 401

No — 300

Shoreland Zoning Ordinance

* Yes — 409

No — 289

Safe Zone Ordinance

* Yes — 447

No — 245


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