May 20, 2022

Chester Selectmen Approve Emergency Contigency Plan for Elections

CHESTER— The board of selectmen this week approved an emergency contingency plan for elections, a step that is being required of all state cities and town’s by the Secretary of the State’s office. The plan was prepared by the town’s two registrars of voters, Democrat Charlene Janecek and Republican Tracey Ohaus.

Janecek said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill had asked state cities and towns to prepare and submit emergency plans after Storm Sandy last fall, and earlier storm on October 2011, knocked out electric power in many communities and threatened the normal operation of elections that are always held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.

The plan, much of it based on model language from the state, notes that Chester Town Hall on Route 154 has back up electric generators. The plan designates the Chester Firehouse on High Street, which was the polling place prior to the opening of the current town hall in 2003, as the alternate polling site. Equipment and ballots would be transported to the alternate polling site under police escort.

The Essex Board of Selectmen also approved an emergency contingency plan for elections at a meeting Wednesday. The plan specifies procedures to be followed if there was a loss of electric power at the town hall polling place, or a malfunction of the voting tabulator. The emergency contingency plans would also be applied for scheduled municipal referendums.

In other business at the Chester meeting Tuesday, selectmen declined an informal request from the Chester Historical Society to reduce a $350 fee for use of the Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street by local non-profit organizations holding fundraisers. The board last fall had approved new rules, and higher fees, for use of the historic meeting house by organizations or private parties, such as weddings.

Selectman Tom Englert noted the fee was still a relatively small amount, adding “every time you open those doors there is a cost to the town.” First Selectman Edmund Meehan agreed, noting “it’s easier to manage if we’re consistent.”