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Voters narrowly reject bond for new town office

NEWFANE—Opponents of the proposal to sell the Newfane Town Offices building and construct a new one met with victory on Election Day, but it was very close.

Town Clerk Gloria Cristelli announced the results late Tuesday night, reporting that of 990 ballots cast, 484 voted in favor, 494 were opposed, and there were 12 blanks.

“Article 1 failed,” Cristelli wrote in an email to The Commons.

This vote was a do-over, accompanied by complications during the past few months.

After the first town offices bond proposal was voted down by a vote of 286 to 226 in August, enough registered voters signed a petition calling for a re-vote. The Selectboard scheduled it for Election Day.

Some town officials claimed voters didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision on the issue during the first go-round, which was complicated by confusion about the wording of the two town offices-related articles on the ballot.

In response, the Town Office Building Committee held a series of public hearings and published an informational brochure to share their research and analysis on why a new building was the best decision for the town.

Other complications included disputes between Town Clerk Gloria Cristelli and the Selectboard about Cristelli’s mailing voters an anonymous informational sheet, complaints about Cristelli’s keeping the re-vote petition in her office, and a misplaced-ballot accusation that the town attorney deemed unsupported by any evidence.

What is not in dispute is the need for workplace improvements for most of the town’s administrative staff. The Town Offices building has handicapped-accessibility, air-quality, and privacy issues, as well as general safety concerns, such as a leaky roof that sheds slate shingles in the spring.

In a number of Selectboard meetings, Board members have complained about the tens of thousands of dollars the town spends every year on temporary fixes to the building’s problems.

With the voters’ Election Day decision, the occupants of the Town Offices will have a new round of temporary fixes to look forward to — unless someone demands a recount or successfully petitions for another re-vote.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #382 (Wednesday, November 9, 2016). This story appeared on page A1.

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