WELLFLEET — The town has a new select board member, John Wolf, who says he wanted to get on the board to address the severe accounting crisis at town hall.
Wolf defeated incumbent Justina Carlson, who, like Wolf, was running as a write-in candidate, by a margin of 374 to 332. Incumbent Helen Miranda Wilson, the only candidate printed on the ballot, was re-elected with 609 votes.
Thirty percent — that is, 922 — of the town’s 3,018 registered voters took part in the June 30 election. Along with voting in Wolf, they approved all 10 debt exclusions and one budget override, that is, purchases that will raise the tax levy beyond the 2.5-percent legal limit. The election results will cause the town budget to go up by 13 percent, adding $534 a year to the tax bill on a home valued at $551,000, the current median assessment.
Wolf plans to make hiring the right person as the new town administrator his top priority. He also wants all meetings to be recorded and available to the public. He is urging caution on the future uses of the 254 acres of shellfish flats purchased by the town in 2019.
But first, he said, he needs to win over the 332 people who voted for Carlson, his opponent.
“I appreciate the trust that those who voted for me have in me,” Wolf said. “I have to earn the trust of those who didn’t.”
One of his big fans turns out to be Carlson herself.
“John Wolf is a real gentleman,” she said.
The three candidates for two select board spots, Carlson, Wolf, and Wilson, spent election day waving at voters. When it was all over, Wolf offered to take down Carlson’s campaign signs along with his own.
“At 11:30 at night he dropped my signs off at my house, after a very long day,” she said.
Carlson said Wolf campaigned hard, and seems to want the job. She admitted that she is tired, and happy to have the extra time to devote to her personal life.
“I gave 10 years to the town [seven as a water commissioner] and worked hard and I’m happy to move on,” she said. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of years.”
Select board service is not for the meek. The town administrator and town accountant both resigned earlier this year amid a financial crisis resulting from years of high turnover and inadequate staffing and supervision of the accounting department. The select board was criticized for not seeing the crisis sooner.
“We don’t have degrees in finance,” Carlson told critics. “The select board worked incredibly hard. These issues were not the select board’s responsibility by charter. And the finance committee was nowhere to be found.”
Finance committee member Stephen Polowczyk laid the crisis at the select board’s feet. “Someone was asleep,” he said on June 24.
But if voters were displeased with the accounting chaos that will take months to untangle, according to Interim Town Administrator Charlie Sumner, they didn’t show it at the election.
By 663 to 243, voters agreed to hire two firefighters for $168,000, which will permanently raise the tax rate. The rest of the purchases listed below will raise the tax rate for the life of the corresponding loans. By 693 to 217, voters approved purchase of portable radios for the fire dept. for $85,000; by 623 to 286, to buy an emergency response boat for the marine department for $290,000; by 544 to 353, to purchase a replacement ¾-ton pickup truck and plow for $60,000; and by 544 to 347, to buy a replacement roll-off truck for the DPW for $240,000.
Voters supported spending $50,000 for engineering to replace a revetment at Mayo Creek by 577 to 304. They voted to spend $35,000 to replace the baseball backstop at Baker Field by 559 to 334. They approved $138,000 for design work to improve the Main Street and Route 6 intersection by 563 to 331. They raised $250,000 to compensate homeowners needing new septic systems to install new innovative or alternative systems by 620 to 267. They approved $50,000 to engineer a permeable reactive barrier at East Commercial Street to improve quality at Duck Creek by 507 to 353.
By a 702 to 194 vote, they approved spending $1.9 million to provide a wastewater treatment system for a future affordable housing project at 95 Lawrence Road.