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March 12. 2013 7:43PM

Voting in Salem is slow but steady

A sign outside the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem urges local support for a casino at Rockingham Park on Tuesday evening. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)

SALEM -- Slow but steady was the general theme at Tuesday's polls, with many voters showing up at the town's four polling locations to show their support for such articles as the non-binding casino referendum and the proposed $17 million in school renovations at Haigh, Soule and Fisk schools.


Standing outside the Ingram Senior Center Tuesday evening, board of selectmen Chairman Pat Hargreaves held up a cardboard sign urging his neighbors to elect him for another term on the board and also show some support for the casino referendum.


Hargreaves, who stood outside the polls for most of the day on Tuesday, said he'd gotten plenty of positive feedback from residents, who seemed to mostly favor the possibility of having casino gaming at Rockingham Park.


"People have had lots of questions, but most of the comments have by far been in favor of this," Hargreaves said, noting that he'd hoped to see a 75 percent approval rating at the final count and also expected the gambling bill to pass the state senate on Thursday.


"That would send a great message to our local representatives," he added.


Over the course of the day, Hargreaves said just one single citizen - a former Connecticut resident - said they planned to vote "no" on the casino referendum.


"But most people seem to understand that all of the gamblers are going to take their money somewhere else if this doesn't happen in Salem," he added.


Resident Joe Fitzpatrick said he voted in favor of the casino referendum.


"I just think it's a good idea," Fitzpatrick said. "This would mean jobs and revenue for the area and hopefully it would also stabilize our property taxes."


Two other voters making their way into the polls declined to give their names but offered their thumbs up overhearing Fitzpatrick's comments.


By mid-afternoon just over 3,000 of the town's voters had cast their ballots.


Just after 5 p.m., around 1,200 of those voters had cast ballots at Fisk Elementary School. An hour later, voting tallies totaled 1,565 at the Ingram Senior Center, according to Chris Goodnow.


Goodnow compared this year's town elections to 2010, when a similar school construction article went before voters and was consequently passed, allowing for improvements at Barron, North Salem and Lancaster schools.


"We saw 4,400 voters that year, which we're expecting to exceed this time around," Goodnow said about an hour before the polls closed.

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