Pittsfield manager apologizes for locked doors incident during election
Pittsfield City Council sworn in a new member, discussed the maintenance of the city’s private roads and City Manager Kathryn Ruth apologized for an incident in last Tuesday’s election when voters were temporarily excluded from the city office and unable to access polling stations.
This all happened at a council meeting on Tuesday, as Ruth said she and the town clerk had never seen an election incident like this before.
“It was something that the city clerk and I never thought would happen, and that we had never seen before – (the city clerk) with his 16 years of experience and my almost 40 years as a manager general – we were a little shocked that someone would lock the door and leave, ”said Ruth.
A city worker left around 5 p.m. last week Tuesday and locked the doors to the building behind them because that’s what they do most of the time. Poll workers inside stayed behind and didn’t know the doors had been locked, Ruth said.
Ruth said that while investigating the incident, a witness said no residents arrived and left until 5:15 p.m. At around 5:30 p.m., another city worker arrived and found four residents outside the city office. This employee came in and informed the city clerk and the doors were unlocked.
The four residents were then able to vote and said no one else had arrived and left while they waited. The polling stations remained open until 8 p.m.
The city clerk spoke to residents to determine what had happened and apologized for the incident, and the poll clerks also apologized. Ruth said she was able to get in touch with two of the affected voters and also apologized to them on behalf of the city.
The municipal office will take several measures to ensure this does not happen again in the future, Ruth said.
“The city clerk will issue another list of instructions regarding Election Day, it will secure the device that locks the doors, there will be additional training to correct this incident,” said Ruth.
At the start of the meeting, Michel Cianchette was sworn in as an adviser after winning the special election for the seat last Tuesday. He has already served on the city council.
“When I stepped down as mayor and general councilor in 2018, I challenged the board to dare to ask the tough and uncomfortable questions and make the tough and uncomfortable decisions,” Cianchette said. “I will challenge the board to join me in doing it again. “
The seat has remained vacant since Debra Billings resigned earlier in the year for personal reasons. The council still had enough members to conduct its business, so the city waited until June to hold the special elections, as it would already hold an election for the SAD 53 school district budget referendum.
Councilors discussed at length the maintenance of private roads in Pittsfield and the role, if any, that the city can play in that maintenance.
Councilors said they heard from residents of rue Estelle, a private road, that they were wondering if the road could be adopted by the city, so the city would take care of it, instead of residents.
Ruth said it was a request the city had heard of and looked into several years ago. Legally, she said, the city cannot maintain private roads like Estelle Street because it would be considered to use public funds for private purposes.
And the only way for the city to adopt the road would be for residents to pay and do the construction work to bring it up to city standards, which can be an expensive process.
The council discussed whether it was known who held the deed of ownership of the road land – the residents or the developer. Ruth said when she looked at this before she couldn’t locate the act.
Advisors also said that if it is a private road, can residents choose to just keep the road area directly in front of their property and could they block that section of road.
After much discussion, council tabled the matter, so that it can be discussed at a future meeting with residents, and Ruth will consider the current cost of the road to be brought up to city specifications.
The council also discussed updates on upcoming road works in the city, paving and estimates of incoming funds from the US bailout. The board approved a 6% interest rate for overdue taxes in 2021 and the tax due date at the end of the business day on Friday, October 15.
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