Total votes from machine No. 1 came in shortly after 8 p.m. inside Pomfret Town Hall Tuesday; - 175 "yes" to 178 "no." Minutes later, machine No. 2 read 43 "yes" to 40 "no." Then the paper ballots - seven "yes" to five "no."
The result, a two-vote swing unofficially approving the town of Pomfret North End Water District by way of 225 "yes" votes to 223 "no" votes.
"It was much tighter than I anticipated," Pomfret Town Board Supervisor Don Steger said blankly. "I anticipated a bigger affirmative vote than we received. Less than half of the eligible voters came out to vote tonight so that may have something to do with it ... it's an affirmative, but it's not an overwhelming mandate at all. People in the district made the vote and I guess a win is a win and we'll move forward with the water district at this point."
OBSERVER Photo by Michael Rukavina
Election inspectors tally results from Tuesday’s referendum regarding the proposed town of Pomfret North End Water District.
According to Pomfret Town Clerk Roberta Valentine, there were 1,005 eligible voters within the proposed North End Water District who could have cast a vote.
"Most definitely every vote counts. It also proves that people are on both sides of the fence of the argument," Steger said. "Hopefully they have the right information and the right facts that they're making their decisions on. The whole goal of the board has been to establish this water district to improve the quality of life for existing residents in the town of Pomfret; that's our whole goal so we're ready to continue moving forward. Hopefully this 60-day delay hasn't affected our chances at increased funding; that's one of our goals we're looking for as well to make this district even more affordable to everyone."
The town board hosted an informational meeting on the proposed district Monday evening at the LoGuidice Center to give one last chance to clear the air on any misconceptions residents may have had. Councilman Rod Pennica also alluded to the question as to whether or not misinformation played a part in the voting results.
"I'm happy with the decision that the yes votes have carried the night. I'm not happy with the margin, it's too small. I'm surprised and I'm shocked by it," Pennica said solemnly. "There are a lot of people that need the water that couldn't vote, a lot of tenants, people at McClenathan's, we know they've been pretty vocal about wanting water. I'll be happy when it's over and the vote count holds and we know we have a victory here, but I would have been much happier if it was a bigger margin. I really anticipated a bigger margin and I'm afraid that this means people were more willing to believe bad news that was inaccurate and that was in many ways fabricated rather than the good news and the truth. Maybe sometimes the truth sounds too good to be true and once in a while maybe it is and the way I think we put this district together and the charges - they're a good deal for everyone and I think a lot of people had trouble believing it."
Inside town hall, shortly before and after the voting booths closed up, council members including Chuck Civiletto, Rod Pennica, and Don Steger gathered with a small group of supporters for the district along with village of Fredonia Mayor Michael Sullivan.
"The town board has put in an awful lot of work in moving forward with this project and showing real progress for the future of the town," Sullivan said. "It's a sign of the times. Ten years ago you wouldn't even have a near close vote for something like this. I think the mindset of the public is shifting towards the regional approach, the larger approach, trying to get the economy of scale. And whether it's two votes or 500 votes, the fact is tonight the voters approved what their town representatives have proposed and I know the village board is looking forward to, Monday night, in having our first meeting post-approval of the district with the town board at our village meeting."
According to Sullivan the village board will meet with town officials Monday during the workshop session to map out the next steps of the project.
"We need to go forward now, we need to work with them and with the DEC to complete any engineerings that are required to establish the water needs and detail what they're going to need for phase one," Sullivan said. "We'll go forward hopefully to be their contractor for water and again working with the partners in Chadwick Bay maybe looking at something larger for a region here where we can be much more cost effective in our production costs for water and benefit the whole region."
With regards to Laona residents, an area overrun with blue vote no signs, Sullivan felt a relief that those customers will now be in an official district pending the re-canvas of the vote happening early this morning at town hall.
"It certainly takes a lot of pressure of the village. We have a number of people who are not part of a district, we've had a small number over the years who have stiffed us for water bills, and we've always had to consider what we were going to do ... the village board has not taken action because there was an attempt to move forward with some sort of a plan that would put those people in a district," he said. "We always worried, what happened if a line out there broke that was basically a private line? Who's going to fix it and how fast could residents out there have gathered the money to make the repair? We didn't have it in our budget to fix those pipes and the town doesn't necessarily. It takes the concern that we've always had over payment, over the safety and as the health department said that has to have some sort of a district created one way or another. I know there were some concerns of why pay more for something when we already have the water? There is no guarantee that that water was going to be out there. This is a big step forward in guaranteeing the people of Laona that water will continue to be in their pipes."
After the votes were tallied, McClenathan's Mobile Home Park owner Jim Cripe and founder of the "vote no" movement entered town hall. He seemed to be expecting, like the board, a larger affirmative in either direction.
"I would have rather it been two up instead of two down," he said. " I just appreciate all of the people who have supported me. I only cast one vote, and how many other people were there ..."
According to Steger the next steps in moving towards a phase one building project will require several legal hurdles. After which, and when the time is ready, the public will have yet another chance to voice their opinions, ask questions and gather accurate information when the board hosts a public hearing regarding phase one.
"There will be plenty of prior announcement and people can be here and get the facts firsthand," Steger said.
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