Hartwell, Hager, Kuech

GORHAM — In a six-way race for three town council seats, voters Tuesday returned incumbents Benjamin Hartwell and James Hager to the board, but ousted fellow incumbent Paul Smith in favor of Janet Kuech

Voters also approved, 1,378 to 1,016, a referendum authorizing the town to borrow $4 million to buy 141 acres and spend up to another $1.9 million to develop the property into a new industrial park.

Voter turnout was 18 percent with 2,525 ballots cast, according to Town Clerk Laurie Nordfors.

Gorham Town Council candidate Richard Davis Jr. and election worker Joann Means check a tally sheet Tuesday in Gorham’s Ward 2. Robert Lowell/American Journal

Hartwell, the Town Council chairman, swept the three voting wards and won the most absentee ballots, with 1,379 total votes.

Hager tallied 897; Kuech, 847; Tyler J. Gowen, 834; Smith, 789; and Richard David Jr., 719.

“I am greatly honored and humbled to have this much support from the people of Gorham, and I will do my best to represent their interests and make choices that I believe are best for Gorham,” Hartwell said Wednesday in an email.

“I am proud that voters feel I am worthy to continue serving,” Hager said in an email Wednesday. “I hope they know I have the best interests of the entire community in mind while serving, because my vote also affects me.”

A legal issue could arise over seating Kuech on the Town Council because she is a School Department employee. The town charter states that no council members “shall profit under the Town Charter or Ordinances.”

“I am excited to be elected to the seven-member Town Council to serve here in Gorham,” Kuech, an education technician at Narraganset Elementary School, said Wednesday in an email to the American Journal. “I have a legal team in place to help make sure the wishes of the voters will be carried out.”

She said she won’t resign from the School Department to serve on the Town Council.

“My supporters and I believe I will be a better member because I have so much experience in the schools. Working in special education is a calling and I will be keeping my job,” she said.

Nordfors said Wednesday that the town is waiting to hear from the town attorney on the matter.

In the School Committee race, Philip Gagnon Jr., a former Town Council chairman, was elected with 1,273 votes and Stewart McCallister, vice chairman of the board, was re-elected with 1,160. They bested James Brockman, who received 1,097.

“I’m very humbled and honored I can serve the town again,” Gagnon said Tuesday evening at Ward 2.

“I am thankful to have the opportunity to have a front row seat to witness our schools’ successes and lead through the challenges as they arise,” McCallister said Wednesday in an email. “Thank you to everyone who turned out to vote for me.”

The Town Council and School Committee seats are all three-year terms.

BOND APPROVED

The property to be purchased for the industrial park is a 93-acre parcel with frontage on the southerly side of Main Street and an adjoining 48 acres with frontage on Libby Avenue. It is near the existing Gorham Industrial Park.

Development of the property is aimed at broadening the town’s tax base to ease the future burden on homeowners. The town had a contract to buy the property hinging on voter approval.

“It means we may move forward with the purchase and start the work that was determined with the referendum such as a survey and start a road so a few lots can be marketed,” Hartwell said.

Unopposed for a two-year term on the Portland Water District board of trustees, Robert Burns garnered 1,993 votes.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap visited Ward 1-1 Tuesday and chatted with Nordfors and other election officials. When asked why he came to Gorham, Dunlap said, “Why not?I like to visit communities.”

At Ward 2, election workers Sue Parsons and Jean Robinson reported that 16 of the 42 new voter registrations in the ward on Election Day were USM students.

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