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Peter Cunningham elected to Groton Select Board; override for new elementary school passes

Candidate for Select Board Peter Cunningham outside the current Florence Roche Elementary School with supporters Richard Marton, Mihran Keoseian, and Therese Keoseian. JACOB VITALI/LOWELL SUN
Candidate for Select Board Peter Cunningham outside the current Florence Roche Elementary School with supporters Richard Marton, Mihran Keoseian, and Therese Keoseian. JACOB VITALI/LOWELL SUN

GROTON — Four years after he decided not to seek re-election, Peter Cunningham is heading back to work on the Select Board.

Cunningham received 938 votes in Tuesday’s election as turnout reached about 20%. He defeated political newcomers Craig Bennett (397 votes) and Vikram Narayan (285 votes). Voters also approved a proposition 2 ½ override ballot question which will allow for the construction of a new Florence Roche Elementary School. The school will be built behind the existing building on the school’s track. The school passed with 1,060 yes votes to 639 no votes.

On election day, Earl Carter started campaigning for Cunningham at 6:30 a.m. JACOB VITALI/LOWELL SUN

A member of the board for 21 years between 1996 and 2017, Cunningham has stayed active in the community. He currently serves on the Friends of the Nashua River Rail Trail and Squannacook Greenways. He has also served as the Select Board’s representative to the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission. Throughout the campaign, he talked about wanting to use his skills to help the town and wanting to address the property tax burden residents face.

After the results were announced, Cunningham said that he was “very happy” with the outcome and was looking forward to getting to work with members of the board.

“I had a lot of good support and I think it really helped that a lot of people knew me and those folks agreed with the way I conducted myself on the Select Board previously,” Cunningham said.

In addition, Cunningham spoke highly of his two opponents.

“I certainly really want to commend both Craig Bennett and Vik Narayan for stepping in and getting involved,” Cunningham said. “I really hope they stay involved because the town really functions and operates well with volunteers who are willing to get involved and bring their talents to town government,” Cunningham said.

At the Groton-Dunstable Regional Middle School, where precincts two and three voted, Christopher Onton said that he voted for Cunningham and voted yes on question one. Although his children are no longer in the school system, his support for the project stemmed from knowing the state of the current building.

“The foundation of the community is its schools and my property taxes are related to the schools,” Onton said. “If you don’t invest in your kids and your seniors, what kind of community are you building? Who are you keeping the community for at that stage?”

Laura Chesson, superintendent of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District, expressed her gratitude to the community after the results were announced.

“We are so thrilled that the community voted to support the new Florence Roche School,” Chesson said. “We are impressed by the continued generosity of the people of Groton. The new and improved Florence Roche School will bring a 21st century educational facility to the Groton elementary students while meeting the needs of the community for continued fiscal responsibility.”

Leading up to the election, proponents of the new school said that the school’s construction would be reimbursable by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. With a reimbursement from the MSBA, the project is estimated to cost $50.4 million. Money from the Community Preservation Act will be used to construct a new track. With the project’s approval, residents will see a rise in property taxes for the fiscal year 2025 when long-term bonding for construction ends. A home valued at $507,000 is projected to pay $770.64 that year.

Outside of precinct one at The Groton Center, Dick Bettencourt said that he was supporting Cunningham because of his efforts in the town and work to support the center. Cunningham currently serves on the Council on Aging Board of Directors.

“It’s through his efforts here that the center has grown,” Bettencourt said.

In Tuesday’s other contests, a number of incumbents secured re-election victories. On the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District School Committee, Fay Raynor (1,174 votes) and Brian LeBlanc (1,199 votes) won new three-year terms.

Lorayne Black (1,167 votes) and Russel Burke (1,131 votes) were re-elected to the Planning Board and they will be joined by Alison Bedard (1,118 votes). Michelle Collette (1,341 votes) will join the Board of Health. John Sopka (1,225 votes) will be joining the Housing Authority.

Jennifer Evans (1,296 votes) was re-elected to the Board of Assessors and Joseph Twomey (1,371 votes) won re-election to the Commissioners of Trust Funds.

John McCaffrey (1,288 votes) secured a new term on the Water Commission and Michael Bouchard (1,335 votes) was re-elected to the Sewer Commission. Kevin Lindemer (1,364 votes) won re-election to the Groton Electric Light Commission.

Anna Eliot (1,279 votes) was re-elected to the three-year term on the Parks Commission. No candidate secured enough votes for the 2-year term according to the unofficial results.

Jane Allen (1,246 votes) and Kristen von Compe (1,198 votes) were re-elected to the Trustees of the Groton Public Library on three-year terms. Kathryn Bettencourt (1,268) was elected to the board for a 2-year term.

Town Clerk Michael Bouchard (1,393 votes) will serve a new three-year term, as will Moderator Jason Kauppi (1,365 votes).

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