Citizens Voice Election Concerns With Council

By Chris Paul

The Town Council held its first meeting since the Tuesday, March 14, Election and while two new members were voted onto the board and at the meeting, a number of residents raised concerns with why it wasn’t postponed due to the severity of the nor’easter.
Before public comment, the three existing councilors welcomed and congratulated Ron Dunn and Ted Combes to the board and then reappointed John Farrell as Chairman and voted to make Chad Franz Vice-Chair.
Deb Paul chose not to run for re-election and Joe Green failed in his attempt to hold onto his seat.
Before Public Comment began, Farrell advised those speaking of the rules and procedures people would need to adhere to.
There will be a five-minute time limit and no one will be able to donate time to other speakers. During Public Hearings, residents can only speak to the topic being discussed by the board. During Public Comment, speakers are asked to limit comments to matters of public concern related to town governance.
He also added that some conduct will be prohibited.
Using profanity or vulgar language or gestures; using language is likely to lead to a disturbance or disorder because it insults or demeans any person or which is directed at a public employee is not related to his/her official duties; interrupting other speakers with applause, cheers, and jeers; engaging in behaviors that intimidates others, and addressing the board on issues that do not concern the services, policies, or affairs of the town.
These rules would be at the discretion of the Chair.
Resident, Tara Miles, had two concerns about the election. One, that the weather impacted her ability to vote since she does not own a four-wheel drive vehicle, and the other was the fact that people were allowed to erect inappropriate signs opposing candidates and that the amount of signs being used were not maintained making for some very dirty looking roadsides.
Ann Chiampa also had issues with getting to and from the election, and needed to actually be pushed out of the LHS parking lot. She also noted that due to a power outage that lasted over a day, she wasn’t able to communicate with anyone to find out where town warming stations were set up. She suggested to post this information well before storms arrive.
Following that, Town Moderator, Jonathan Kipp, addressed the board on the election.
He said that during the election they were trial testing new ballot processing machines and they conducted a post election audit on Thursday, March 16, which the Secretary of State’s office deemed successful.
He reviewed the process used for whether or not to postpone the election.
Kipp said the process is governed by state statute that states, “If the National Weather Service issues a weather event warning applicable to a town on a date when an election is scheduled, which the moderator reasonably believes will cause the roads to be hazardous or unsafe, then the moderator may, after consulting with town officials, postpone the election.”
He added the decision to postpone needed to be made the day before, prior to 6 p.m.
Kipp stated the he and a number of town officials made their decision based on the information they were provided during a weather briefing by the homeland security and emergency management to not postpone.
He added that when he left his home at 4:15 a.m. and immediately knew the forecast was wrong, but there was nothing he could do at that point.
He finished by saying, “I would love to sit here tonight and promise this will never happen again, but I am unable to do so.”