Milford says yes to land buy, no to teachers’ contract

MILFORD – Voters Tuesday soundly rejected a teachers’ contract and overwhelmingly passed a ballot item to buy land for recreation.

The teachers’ contract and the land purchase were on the local primary ballot as a result of special school and town meetings.

The town’s Ballot Question 1, to purchase land and buildings at 127 Elm St., passed with a vote of 1,758 to 392.

The 5.8 acres is adjacent to Keyes Park and will provide room for sports fields and a second access to Keyes during the Fletcher Paint Superfund cleanup next year.

Much of the purchase price has already been raised through pledged donations.

Town Recreation Director Arene Berry had waited for the voting results at the middle school polling place, and she said a lot of credit must go to the Recreation Commission because it raised the needed money.

“I firmly believe that’s what helped the vote pass,” she said.

The school district’s ballot item asked for $545,000 for teacher pay and benefit increases, based on a fact-finder’s recommendations.

The fact-finder was hired to help settle a contract dispute between the Milford Teachers Association and the School Board, and the money would have gone for pay and wage-driven benefit increases for the first year of a three-year contract.

Negotiations between the board the teachers had resolved all but one issue: the board’s wish for a third tier of health insurance coverage for new teachers, teachers who have not yet been hired, with a 5 percent higher premium.

The factfinder recommended that the board drop that request, but the board argued that the wage increases it offered over three years are generous and the group 3 health insurance proposal would help the district control costs long into the future.

Both the School Budget Committee and the School Board had recommended a no vote.

The vote Tuesday was 766 to 1,374.

If it had passed the school tax rate this year would have gone up by 31 cents. The current rate is $19.42.

Suzanne Schedin, from the Milford Teachers Association, was also in the middle school gym Tuesday night when Town Moderator Peter Basiliere read the vote tallies.

“We thank everyone who turned out to vote,” she said, “but we’re disappointed.

Milford Republican voters went for Walt Havenstein for governor, giving him 817 votes, compared to 532 for Andrew Hemingway, the second highest tally. Scott Brown was the heavy favorite for U.S. Senator, and Marilina Garcia, who will run against Ann McLane Kuster for Congress, gained twice as many votes as her nearest opponent, Gary Lambert.

David Wheeler was the clear favorite for executive councilor, with 1,056 to Steve Hattamer’s 347. State Rep. Gary Daniels 973 votes in his quest for a state senate seat was more than the combined total of all three of his GOP opponents.

Basiliere reported a 23 percent turnout, with 2,186 voting out of 9,666 registered voters.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at kcleveland@cabinet.com or 673-3100, ext. 304.