Membership mulls polling place pass
After public outcry over the decision to remove Independence Hall as a polling place, the members of the Penrhyn Engine and Hose Company will examine the matter again Tuesday night, fire company officials said.
“They’re going to have another meeting, I don’t know what’s going to happen after that,” Frank Riegert, Penrhyn Engine and Hose Company President said.
At the April meeting of the Washington County Board of Supervisors Riegert addressed the board and told them they could find another place to hold elections in Middle Granville because the firefighters were not going to provide their building.
The move was in reaction to the supervisors passing a resolution removing a stipend to fire companies for hosting polling places.
Riegert said the $100 stipend barely covers the cost of heating and electricity for a space with insurance that has a phone during the course of the day.
With fire companies pinching every penny, he said he thought the stipend should have stayed, but felt the firefighter’s reaction justified for the withdrawal of the funds.
County officials felt differently.
“We don’t want to pull that poll site out of there, that was the fireman’s choice,” Donna English, Republican election commissioner for the Washington County Board of Elections said.
English said back when county took over polling sites three or four years ago the board of supervisors decided it was not necessary to pay fire companies for the use of their sites.
“So they passed this resolution,” she said.
English said in the past, some had been paid for use of their sites but said the supervisors considered it a community service and most of the fire companies agreed and did not request payment.
“A lot of fire companies figure that it’s their civic duty, serving the community,” she said.
English said she had no first hand knowledge of what other departments in the county who hosted polling places did, in terms of seeking compensation from other sources, but said they were not asking for compensation from the county.
“I don’t know what the towns are doing,” she said, adding that two Granville districts, the fourth (Penrhyn) and fifth (North Granville), were the only organizations that asked the county for compensation.
“I’m pretty sure they’re not doing anything (other departments),” English said.
“Most (fire departments) are very accommodating because it’s a public building and they want it used,” she said.
English said the two departments were compensated for the use of their halls for the primary and the general election in the fall, but were notified afterwards there would be no more funding to follow.
Compensating the departments had been “under duress” she said because the demand for funds came too close to the election to find another option or to notify the voters of the district if an option was found.
“It (would have) cost us more to notify all of the voters rather than pay what they wanted,” she said.
“We aren’t’ going to do it again and we told them that,” English said.
Riegert said the stipend helped the company break even for a day when the doors are constantly opening and closing and the lights remain on all day.
“All I’m asking for is a little help with the lights and heat and that kind of (stuff),” Riegert said. “All I wanted to do was cover expenses. We’re not making any money on it; we’re not getting any treats out of it.”
Riegert said his appeal to the board of supervisors seemed to have fallen on deaf ears and he was not considering a return trip.
“Why, so I can get stared at again? Why bother?” he said.
“Maybe I should have let it die a natural death instead of trying to talk them back into it,” Riegert said.