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Council Designates Reed School As New Polling Place



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Council Designates Reed School As New Polling Place

By Jan Howard

The Legislative Council on July 2 voted unanimously, 7-0, to approve a request from Registrars of Voters Karin Aurelia and Lereine Frampton to relocate the voting location for District 2 voters from Newtown High School to Reed Intermediate School’s cafetorium.

The request was made in anticipation of a primary in September. The law requires that a primary be held in a regular polling place, registrars said.

The registrars have explained that the decision to move District 2’s polling place from the high school to the Reed School was because of concerns for parking and the use of the high school’s cafeteria by students, who have no other alternative place to eat lunch. The registrars explained last week that District 2 is growing, and the polling place was moved from Sandy Hook Firehouse to the high school only as a stopgap measure until the Reed School was constructed.

The request had been presented on June 18 by Ms Aurelia but was tabled pending an investigation of the possible use of Canaan House on the Fairfield Hills campus as a polling place.

Legislative Council Chairman Don Studley had asked Ms Aurelia to research the possible use of Canaan House and to prepare a specific proposal for consideration on July 2.

Ms Aurelia told council members Wednesday night that it was her feeling that some town funds would need to be expended to make the Canaan House facility suitable as a voting place. On June 18 she had advised the council that the proposal to use the Reed School would not cost the town anything.

Ms Frampton pointed out the distance elderly voters would need to walk to get to the polls at Canaan House from parking areas and within the building, including several stairs at the entrance. She noted that District 2 has the highest percentage of elderly voters, including residents from Nunnawauk Meadows and Walnut Tree Village.

“I don’t think they’ll be happy with it,” she said.

Mr Studley said he had talked to council members Peggy Baiad and Joe Borst, who had visited Canaan House, and both had indicated that the site was unsuitable.

Council member Tim Holian also criticized the handicapped access at Canaan House, noting “it doesn’t make sense.”

The handicapped ramp, which is in need of repairs, leads down to the basement where there is an elevator to take visitors to the main floor where the voting would take place.

Council member Michael Iassogna raised a concern about safety issues for students and how the room would be divided. Half of the cafetorium would be set aside for voting through the use of room partitions.

“I would hate to be responsible for creating a situation to put children in danger,” he said. Mr Iassogna recommended that the students eat their lunches in the classrooms on that day; however, it was explained that it would require an additional cost for the school system as teachers would have to be paid extra to oversee students in their classrooms during lunch and there are not enough aides.

Parents could not fill in for teachers because schools require a certified person in the room, according to council member Amy Dent. 

The registrars said they were also concerned about the safety of the children, and an election worker, or possibly a policeman if that is allowed under election rules, would be hired to make sure no one goes behind the partition.

An amendment proposed by council member Amy Dent that any ancillary costs to the Board of Education to provide appropriate security in the Reed School be charged against the budget for the referendum failed by a vote of 4-3.

Mr Studley said, “It is not up to us how the registrars and the Board of Education handle security.”

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