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On second vote, GQ board still goes for separate mayoral election

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY — For the second time this month, Mayor Bill Feather broke a tie Thursday and voted for amending the town’s charter, paving the way for a separate mayoral election this November.

The 3-2 vote means Granite Quarry voters, not the Board of Aldermen, will decide who the town’s next mayor will be. Feather sided with Alderman Arin Wilhelm and Alderwoman Mary Ponds, a former mayor herself, as he did in a vote on the same question on Jan. 5.

Voting against the ordinance again were Mayor Pro Tem Jim LaFevers and Alderman Mike Brinkley.

Thursday’s second reading of the ordinance was necessary because a two-thirds majority of aldermen did not favor the charter change in the first vote. Feather, as mayor, does not count when determining the two-thirds majority.

A special meeting for the second vote was called Thursday because aldermen were working at the end of a 60-day timeline to have the ordinance passed. They had followed the prescribed procedures of a resolution, public hearing and public notice.

The town charter change provides for a separate mayoral election every two years, starting in 2015. It will become effective after March 31.

The only thing preventing that would be if citizens filed a petition calling for a public referendum on the question. They have 30 days to file such a petition, which would have to be signed by at least 10 percent of the electorate. Brinkley said the filing of such a petition was highly unlikely.

After Thursday’s meeting, Town Attorney Chip Short said Granite Quarry will not have to have this particular change in the town charter approved by the General Assembly.

Brinkley again reiterated his position that the town’s current method of choosing a mayor should not be changed. At present, the mayor is chosen every two years after the municipal election by the new town board. The board members are capable of making that decision, Brinkley has argued.

He said the board’s action Thursday was shortsighted and should be put off, because not all the questions have been answered. Brinkley said one question is how vacancies on the board will be handled if a member is elected mayor and his or her four-year term as alderman still has two years remaining.

A member of previous town boards some years back, Brinkley said he remembers aldermen having to fill unexpired terms three different times, and it was difficult.

“It’s a pain,” he added. “… You need to think about this.”

LaFevers also asked why going to a separate mayoral election couldn’t be postponed until three or four years down the road. He emphasized that he had no problems with the change going through, but he did not think it should not take effect immediately.

Ponds said this wasn’t an issue that could be put on “the back burner” any longer.

“It needs to be brought forward and put on ‘high,'” she said. “… This is a crossroads we should have crossed before.”

Wilhelm reiterated again that he thought the Granite Quarry electorate was capable of choosing a mayor on its own. Feather said the reasons he cited Jan. 5 for supporting the town charter’s change still held, and he broke the tie among the aldermen.

“It passes at this juncture,” he said moments before the meeting adjourned.

Aldermen will hold their regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Town Hall.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

 

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