|By Levon Kinney|
WILBRAHAM Changes to the towns polling locations brought approval but also dissent from town residents who were asked to attend a public hearing March 7. Town Clerk Beverly Litchfield presented a plan to approximately 25 voters including Selectmen David Barry, James Thompson, and Patrick Brady.
Current locations for polling include the Pines Community Center, Memorial School, Stony Hill Road School, and Soule Road School. Litchfield explained that that the town's lease at the Pines will run out in two years in which time a new location will have to be found and due to security restrictions the schools had to close on voting days. Superintendent of schools Paul Gagliarducci met with Litchfield and agreed that Minnechaug Regional High School could accommodate both parties.
"I really see it as a win-win situation for the 9,500 voters in town," Litchfield told the audience. "The state is going to reorganize the districts in 2011 and will shift voters into different precincts; this is a preemptive move on our part."
Town resident Barbara Ann Moss gave Litchfield a petition signed by 50 senior citizens who, "felt like their right to vote was being taken away."
Throughout the hearing, ,Litchfield assured the audience that no one was taking any voters rights away.
"We are doing the best we can to accommodate every voter in town," Litchfield explained. "The senior center has donated their van for the day to transport voters, there will be handicap accessible parking. This will make sure that the polling location will stay the same even when the precinct lines are changed."
At the Board of Selectmen meeting March 12, Town registrars Jack Shea, Rod Fountain, and Tom Mango met with the selectmen asking if there had been a decision.
"When I first learned about this it seemed like a good plan," Barry said. "Then I thought of a few issues that might be of concern."
Barry explained that voter disenfranchisement, a possible sewer project on Main St. and renovations to the high school will have to be considered before a resolution can be made.
"Whatever may happen with those projects, education will continue," Fountain said. "The flow of traffic from students will be greater than that of the voters."
Thompson said he wanted to clarify with the school committee on their decision to instate a two year probationary period on the polling location.
"If we put all our eggs in one basket now and we don't know what will come down the road we might be in an even less favorable position," Barry said.
The measure was not passed and the precinct locations will stay at their current space.