News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, July 10, 2014
Voting machine ordered for town of Stonington

by Rich Hewitt

The selectmen on June 30 opted to lease an electronic voting machine that will eliminate the need to hand count most state and federal ballots.

The lease cost is $775 although there would be an additional cost if the town wanted the machines to handle local municipal ballots as well, according to Town Manager Kathleen Billings-Pezaris.

The only local voting is for the sanitary district, the school board and the selectmen, with the occasional local referendum question. There is a possibility that the town could get the school department and the sanitary district to share the cost, but selectmen opted to continue to count local ballots by hand.

“There’s not that many,” said Chris Betts. “They’re easy to count.”

While using the machine will limit the need for physically counting ballots—a move which Selectman Donna Brewer said might offset the cost of the voting machine lease—the main concern for the selectmen was how the machine would shorten the day for the town ballot crew.

Bigger elections, such as this year’s three-way gubernatorial election and the 2016 presidential election, could generate as many as 650 to 750 ballots. That usually keeps the counters at the town office well into the wee hours of the following morning.

“That makes it a very long day,” Betts said. “This way they can go home after the voting’s done.”

The town of Deer Isle has used the vote tabulators for three years now and seems to be satisfied with them. Using the machines has drastically reduced the amount of time the clerks spend after the voting is done. “They’re out of there in an hour,” Billings-Pezaris said.

She said she still had to check on the details regarding the lease, but said she thought the machines could be available in time for the November elections.

In other action, the selectmen also voted to install speed bumps on Memorial Lane. Richard Larrabee, whose home sits on the corner of Memorial Lane and School Street, raised the concern about vehicles speeding up the narrow road and onto School Street. There are several driveways on that road, and he said he was concerned that someone would get hurt.

While Betts offered the opinion that he “didn’t think anyone would be that stupid” to speed on that road, he was assured that cars were speeding regularly.

Larrabee suggested the town post speed limit signs on the road, but Billings-Pezaris said that signs would not have any effect.

“You’re not going to like it, but the only thing that will slow them down is speed bumps,” she said.

The selectmen, however, supported the idea, although Betts raised the issue of plowing the road with the speed bumps in place. Billing-Pezaris noted that there is a type of speed bump that can be removed, so the town could take them up for the winter.

The selectmen also authorized the withdrawal of $7,884 from the Seawall Reserve account to pay for the repairs to the latest sink hole that appeared on Hagen Dock. The amount includes the payment to Skip Eaton, who repaired the hole, and to Andrew McCullough, who designed the fix.

The town also will investigate the possibility of disposing of mercury light bulbs at no cost. Billings-Pezaris noted that the Department of Environmental Protection had sent information about Veolia Environmental, a company that offers to recycle light bulbs containing mercury at no cost to the town.

The town currently contracts with eWaste to take those light bulbs along with other types of waste such as televisions. Although selectmen were interested in the offer, they wanted to make sure that removing the mercury bulbs from the eWaste materials would not affect that company’s willingness to take other waste. Billings-Pezaris will look into the details.