Tie Vote Forces Recount in Grafton

Article Seeks Funds to Fix Town Offices

Grafton — Officials will convene at the town office building tonight to recount votes for an article that resulted in a tie during ballot voting at Town Meeting last week.

The Selectboard, town clerk and moderator will gather at 5:30 p.m. to recount the 562 votes cast on article 5, which asked voters to raise $12,000 through taxes to fix the most pressing code violations in the town office building located along Route 4 in Grafton.

“If it does pass it enables us to address the Department of Labor’s issues with our town building,” Selectboard Chairman Steve Darrow said. “It will be a big difference if it passes.”

On March 12, Grafton residents voted 263-263 to appropriate $12,000 to fix the violations, meaning “it lost, because it didn’t win,” Darrow said last week. A petition was then filed for today’s recount.

If the vote stands, however, town officials will be faced with more difficult decisions.

Although Darrow said it might be possible to shift funds in the budget to cover the code violations, he said the Selectboard needs to OK the move with a Department of Revenue official.

Darrow said “typically” when voters don’t approve a sum of money for a project, “no means no,” and going ahead by shifting funds in the budget, can raise red flags.

“We would have to make sure going forward that we are allowed to do whatever it is we are going to do,” Darrow said.

If a Department of Revenue official has an issue with taking money from the budget to cover the cost of the fixing violations, the Selectboard would approach the state Department of Labor to ask for an extension on the deadline as to when the violations need to be fixed, Darrow said.

“We have had one extension,” Darrow said, adding the violations were supposed to be fixed by Dec. 1, 2013.

Voters also rejected a proposal on March 12 to borrow $296,000 to construct a new town office building, as well as a $137,000 appropriation to remove the old town clerk’s office and build a two-story addition in its place.

All of the proposals would have fixed building code violations identified by the state Department of Labor, including the lack of a second exit in the town clerk’s office, exposed electrical outlets, leaks that could lead to mold, and the lack of a service window for the administrative assistant to the Selectboard’s office, which is a security issue, Darrow said.

After the ballots are cast tonight, Darrow said the Selectboard will further discuss what to do at its next board meeting.

Normally the board meets on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, but since it lost the meeting room to the town clerk’s office — as it became her temporary work space due to the lack of a second exit in her former office — the meeting may be moved to a different day of the week.

That meeting date and time was not known Wednesday evening.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.