CONWAY — It turns out that all six candidates that ran for four three-year seats on the Conway Municipal Budget Committee this spring will have a seat at the table when the budgeteers meet next month.
At the May 12 town election, incumbents David Jensen (who received 872 votes) and James Lefebvre (671) were returned, and newcomers Erik Corbett (680) and Peter Donohoe (751) also prevailed. Falling a bit short were incumbent Michael Tetreault (612) and challenger Bob Drinkhall (640).
However, Lefebvre said Wednesday that Tetreault and Drinkhall are now members of the 2020-21 budget committee.
Tetreault, who had served as the Redstone Fire Precinct’s representative for the previous three years, decided to step down from that one-year appointment to seek a three-year at-large seat on the committee.
However, after the election, commissioners asked Tetreault if he was interested in continuing as Redstone’s rep, and he agreed.
Drinkhall got his seat after being appointed to fill out the remaining year of budgeteer Greydon Turner’s term. Turner submitted his resignation in March.
On May 28, the budget panel met for the first time in two months, ever since the COVID-19 pandemic threw their meetings into disarray.
Gov. Chris Sununu issued his executive order limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people on March 16.
Although other town bodies, such as the selectmen and school board, have been meeting remotely using laptops and smartphone apps, Lefebvre said setting up a Zoom chat wasn’t realistic as some members of the committee do not have access to the internet.
The budget committee, when all seats are filled, contains 17 members — 12 positions voted in by the public; three precinct representatives (East Conway Fire, Center Conway Fire and Redstone Fire), a selectmen’s representative and a Conway School Board representative.
Lefebvre said there remains a vacancy on the committee — no one has shown any interest in representing East Conway Fire since Doug Swett retired after more than 30 years in 2018.
Selectman John Colbath will serve as selectmen’s representative, while Bill Aughton, a former budgeteer, will represent the school board.
Unable to meet at Conway Town Hall in Center Conway or the Professional Development Center at the Kennett Middle School in Conway Village due to a lack of space to “adequately social distance,” according to Lefebvre, the committee finally found a meeting location — Conway Parks and Rec’s Marshall Gymnasium inside the middle school.
“The acoustics are not ideal,” said Lefebvre, who stood throughout the 30-minute meeting, “but we were able to meet and keep a good social distance from each other.
“Even though it was just a half-hour, and I asked that only one person speak at a time, we still had trouble with the reverberation.”
But, “with 16 people and the rules for social distancing, we really can’t do it anyplace else,” he said.
Lefebre added: “I think you may see more town-related meetings in the Marshall Gymnasium, such as the planning board and even the select board. Our next three meetings (June 17, Aug. 19 and Sept. 23) will all be there.”
Their meeting last Thursday saw the budgeteers close out the previous year’s minutes and then reorganize for the upcoming year. Lefebvre and Jensen were both nominated to chairman and vice-chair and elected uncontested by the legislative body.
Members also voted to form four subcommittees for bylaws, setting the town’s default budget and for any questions for the town and school budgets.
Lefebvre said the subcommittees for town and school budget questions will bring them to the full committee for review before sending them on to Town Manager Tom Holmes and SAU 9 Superintendent Kevin Richard.
“I suspect there will be a lot of questions given the current situation,” he said, referring to the impact of the coronavirus. “Every year, I think we’re getting a little bit better at this. I think we have a good group.”