NORTON — Denise Luciano edged out select board member Michael Toole and the town will be forming a public works department.
Those were among the outcomes in Saturday’s annual town election in which 1,555, or 11%, of 14,033 registered voters cast ballots.
Luciano, with 804 votes, ousted Toole, who had 712 votes, for the three-year select board seat.
A ballot question looking to merge the highway and water/sewer departments and turn the elected water and sewer commission into an appointed commission easily passed 1,031 to 410.
In the two other races that were closer than the select board contest, Justine Callanan, with 779 votes, won out over Sandra Ollerhead, 726 votes, for a three-year school committee seat, and former selectman Jack Conway, with 773 votes, is the town’s new moderator, winning over retired fire chief Paul Schleicher, who received 738 votes.
Luciano had served on the economic development commission and charter commission. Toole was wrapping up his first three-year term but had been on the board longer than the other four members.
“I’m happy with the results and looking forward to serving on the board and helping move the town forward,” said Luciano, who was among about 25 residents awaiting the election results in the middle school gym.
Callanan fills the seat of Carolyn Gallagher, who took out but didn’t return election papers for a third term.
Ollerhead, an educator, and Schleicher, are both finance committee members.
The moderator post that oversees town meetings and appoints finance committee members, is also for three years. Conway replaces Walter Eykel.
“I’m very happy,” Conway said. “I thought it was a great race with Paul. I was very fortunate to run with someone with such great character. I think it was close as it should have been.”
Conway added he would have been content to have lost and see Schleicher take the post.
The referendum question looking to create a DPW was a move approved at the June annual town meeting but required an election vote.
“I’m thrilled. It’s very much overdue,” select board member Alec Rich said. “I’m looking forward to setting it up and getting it in place. Obviously, the townspeople have spoken.”
Many area communities have DPWs, which often combine highway and water/sewer departments as Norton will now do.
A director with engineering experience will oversee the new department. The position will be appointed by the town manager.
A DPW will bring more efficiency and potentially expand services and save money, Toole and others say. The highway and water/sewer departments budgets total $8 million combined.
Opponents of a DPW wanted the town’s water and sewer business to continue being overseen by an elected commission with assistance from a water/sewer superintendent.
The DPW change will turn the water and sewer commission into a body appointed by the select board — something board members have tried more than once to get.
Many residents for years have called for changes to the water department but more residents in the past favored keeping their right to vote for commission members, who will continue serving until their terms expire.
The commission has faced criticism the last several years for town water quality problems, which are being addressed largely through a fairly new $11 million treatment plant. It has also been in the spotlight due to cost overruns for the plant and the West Main Street sewer main project.
Select board members and others contend an appointed commission will have more accountability.
Commission members have pointed to the many accomplishments over the last several years, adding that increased project costs were largely out of their control.
Town Clerk Lucia Longhurst, who had described the election as “very active,” said she was disappointed in the turnout, hoping for at least 2,000 voters.
Other than the turnout, “it went very well,” Longhurst said of the election.