New Precinct Voting Map Approved
By Kevin Rudden Staff Reporter/Columnist · June 27, 2011
Selectmen approved a new, eight precinct voting map at their June 6 meeting by a 2-1 vote, with Selectman William Buckley dissenting because he said his board was not given adequate time to review the plans.
Based on the 2010 Census results, "the state felt that we need to add another precinct," Town Clerk Amy Hennessy Neves said. Working with Town Engineer Michael Santora, she modified the boundaries of the existing seven precincts to have clear boundaries and allow room for growth while limiting each of the eight precincts to a maximum of 4,000 people, she explained. The new boundaries had to go to the state by June 15 for its approval, she said.
Selectman Brian Murray noted that the 2010 Census showed Milford has an "official" population of 27,999, which may actually be higher. He asked Neves how the town fared on its goal of getting a 100 percent count for the census. Neves said the town had a 78 percent return rate, which she termed a "pretty good" compared to other communities. Murray said the new map shows an actual distribution of about 3,500 people in each of the new voting precincts.
Buckley said that, once the state approves the new map, he would like to revisit where people vote and whether there is adequate parking at those sites. In the recent town election, he said, he noticed people having a difficult time finding parking at both the Senior Center and at the Portuguese Club.
Buckley also criticized the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), noting the state agency conducted a "Sanitary Survey" of the Milford Water Company last October 27, yet did not provide a copy of its findings to both the company and the town until May 11. "The people that we rely on to oversee the water supply are running reports six months late," he said. "This is unacceptable, in my opinion."
The DEP report listed nine items that needed corrective action – seven by June 30, one by October 15 and one by December 1 – including the pH control problem the water company already dealt with earlier this year.
"I don't understand why we're getting these reports so late," Buckley commented. At his request, the board will ask the DEP to explain the delay from the inspection date to the date the inspection was documented.
Selectmen accepted, with regret, the resignation of Laura Mann from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) after 18 years of service, effective at the end of this month. To fill her vacancy, selectmen unanimously named alternate ZBA member Joseph Evans as a full-time member, moved Christopher Pilla from the second alternate ZBA member to the first alternate member, and then appointed attorney Brian Falk as a new alternate ZBA member.
When Will the New Voting Precincts Take Effect?
Town Clerk Amy Hennessy Neves said the eight new voting precinct boundaries will take effect officially on December 31 of this year, and the first time people will vote in the new precincts will be next March's presidential primary election.
As soon as the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office approves the new voting map later this year, Neves said she plans to post an electronic version of the map on the town's website so residents can see the new precinct boundaries.
Originally, she explained, the town thought the addition of an eighth precinct – Milford's last major change was when it went from five to seven precincts in 1988 – meant the addition of another 33 elected Town Meeting Member seats to the current 231. But, when and she and Town Counsel Gerald Moody double-checked the Town By-laws, they found these words in the section governing Town Meetings: "The representative town meeting members shall in each precinct consist of the largest number divisible by three which will admit of a representation thereof in approximate proportion which the number of registered voters in the town and which will cause the total membership to be as nearly two hundred and forty as may be," Neves explained.
So – rather than the current seven precincts each with 33 elected members – the eight precincts will each have 30 elected members, Neves continued. All current Town Meeting Members will have to stand for e-election at once in next April's town election, with 10 in each precinct running for one-year terms, 10 for two-year terms and 10 for three-year terms, the town clerk explained.