Lincoln holding special Town Meeting to settle disputed selectboard expansion
Update: This article has been amended to reflect that voting on May 14 will take place through Australian ballot voting, not by voice vote, as stated in an earlier version of this article. The Independent regrets the error.
LINCOLN — It’s past the time of year that most Addison County residents keep their ears peeled for important Town Meeting Day news, but Lincoln residents will return to Burnham Hall in the coming weeks for another round of discussion, debate and voting on municipal matters.
At least one and possibly two special town meetings will be held in Lincoln next month to decide whether or not the town’s selectboard will expand from three to five members.
Though voters elected to expand the selectboard’s membership on Town Meeting Day, Town Clerk Sally Ober said that many residents had assumed that the two additional members would not be elected until Town Meeting Day 2014.
However, in the weeks following town meeting, a petition circulated by Selectman Elwin Isham (who introduced the article at Town Meeting 2013, and also had previously introduced a similar proposal at two previous town meetings, Ober said) called for a special town meeting to be held this spring. No candidates immediately came forth, and around 65 Lincoln residents circulated a counter-petition to rescind the action taken at town meeting to expand the selectboard. They filed their petition April 3.
Ober said in a Thursday interview that at least initially, signers of the counter-petition seemed worried that the process had been too rushed for serious candidates to emerge. Another reason residents cited, Ober said, included the concern that too few people would be present for the election at a special town meeting.
Four candidates for the two new selectboard seats have emerged: Jim Adams, Bill Finger, Paul Forlenza and?Joe Martell. They filed petitions endorsed by at least 1 percent of the electorate (or at least 11 signatures) by April 8.
At the first special town meeting, to be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7, in Burnham Hall, Lincoln voters will decide whether or not to move forward with the election, or to rescind the action of increasing selectboard membership. If voters choose to move forward, the election will be held by Australian ballot from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 14.
Ober said her primary concern was that there wouldn’t be a very big voter turnout. The town, she said, had consulted with the Secretary of State’s Office to determine the proper election process and had been told that the election would stand on the majority vote among the voters who were present at the special town meetings. In other words, she explained, the meetings could be determined by a majority vote of only a few voters, and that action could possibly reverse the decision that hundreds of Lincoln residents made on Town Meeting Day in March.
“I would really like to see a lot of people show up,” Ober said. “I hope we’ll have a lot of people and a good discussion before we vote but it’s not the time of year that it’s on people’s radar.”