Public input sought on new Brunswick polling place

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BRUNSWICK — Residents could be voting at the former naval air station in November if a new proposal catches traction by the end of the month.

Though some town councilors have already balked at the idea, they are still seeking public input ahead of a vote on Monday.

The proposal would move the town’s polling place from Brunswick Junior High School to Building 211 at Brunswick Landing, the former U.S. Navy field house that will become the town’s new recreation center this fall.

At the council’s July 1 meeting, Town Manager Gary Brown explained that the town began using the junior high school as its central polling place nearly three years ago after the council voted in July 2010 to consolidate seven locations into one.

“That has worked very well from an election point of view,” Brown said. “The difficulties have been the impact that it has on the Brunswick Junior High School operations.”

Last year, he said, Town Clerk Fran Smith had to ask the School Board to close the school to allow residents to vote on Election Day – something that could be avoided if the polling place is moved.

“If you have been out to the field house, the facility is ideally suited for central voting,” Brown said. “It has more than adequate parking, the inside suits itself very well to layout the voting setting, and it’s also well-lit in the evenings.”

According to a memo from Smith, some of the other advantages include better handicap accessibility, the opportunity for residents to become familiar with Brunswick Landing facilities and businesses, and the elimination of safety concerns for students at Coffin Elementary School.

Moving the polling place this year would also give residents enough time to become familiar with the new location ahead of next year’s gubernatorial and primary elections.

The drawback of moving the polling place would mostly involve getting residents accustomed to the new location, Smith said. Most would have to travel longer distances to reach the new polling place.

The council voted 8-1 to schedule the public hearing for the proposal.

Councilor Sarah Brayman, whose district includes the current polling place, cast the only dissenting vote.

“There is a strong sense still in my part of town that people want the option of walking or driving a short distance to a voting location,” she said.

Councilor Ben Tucker voted to hold the public hearing, but joined Brayman in opposition to the proposal.

“I don’t like the idea and I will be in futile opposition to it,” he said.

Councilor John Richardson said he would like to delay the decision by a year so residents could become more familiar with Building 211 as it begins to see use as the new recreation center.

Councilor John Perreault agreed with Richardson, but didn’t say whether he would support the move in the future.

“I don’t think it’s centrally located,” he said.

Councilors David Watson and Jerry Favreau said they support the proposal because it would allow residents to become more familiar with the new location leading up to next year’s major elections.

“I’m ready to vote there right now,” Watson said. “It’s much more handicap accessible, it’s much safer for the community and I think it’s the time to do it because it is an off(-year) election.”

The two councilors also noted that the polling place would be closer to some residents, especially the families expected to move into housing at Brunswick Landing within the next few years.

The council’s July 15 meeting begins at 7 p.m. in Room 217 at Brunswick Station on Station Avenue.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.