Elkin to punt election costs back to county

Anthony Gonzalez Staff Reporter

January 15, 2014

The Elkin Board of Commissioners approved a resolution on Monday paving the way for municipal elections to be held on even numbered years instead of odd numbered.

Odd numbered year elections were deemed cost-prohibitive by commissioners after they were walloped with a $5,000 price tag reimbursing the county for services associated with running an election.

The Surry County Board of Elections does not invoice towns holding elections on even numbered years, the same years state and federal elections are held.

The resolution proposes an extra year to be added onto the term of each elected official. Elkin’s mayor, Lestine Hutchens, and two commissioners, J.L. Lowe Jr. and Dr. Skip Whitman, would not face voters until 2016, the same year as the next presidential election. Other commissioners who were just elected in the 2013 municipal election would not face voters again until 2018.

According to Hutchens, the matter now goes into the hands of Rep. Sarah Stevens, who she says will push for passage in the General Assembly.

“I personally have spoken to Rep. Stevens on this bill. We know she will get this done for us. I do not anticipate it being a problem,” said Hutchens. “This is a great move. Of course I am proud of the resolution. I have always felt it was the right thing to do.”

The mayor said she always had a problem with odd numbered years because turnout is drastically low.

“I am worried about so few people showing up for an election deciding the makeup of government. The even numbered years get a higher turnout,” said Hutchens.

Elkin had 2,539 registered voters for the 2013 election. Just 19.89 percent voted on Nov. 5 compared to only 18 percent who showed up in 2011, the most recent (odd numbered) municipal election year available for comparison.

According to voting records, Elkin’s voter turnout was 67 percent for 2012 (presidential year) and at 36 percent for 2010.

Though turnout is heavier during even numbered years, Hutchens acknowledged that voters are marketed more by larger funded candidates.

“Getting out the local message was a concern brought up by this board last year, but if you’re running for something in Elkin, people are going to know you without spending money,” she said.

Other town business

Commissioners were informed of a critical failure to Elkin’s aqueduct underneath Standard Street in downtown Elkin. The Public Works department urged replacement of the pipeline. Commissioners considered installing a new line draining in the Yadkin River, or to keep the current line design that drains into the Big Elkin Creek. The emergency repairs are estimated as low as $47,000, but officials will not know the exact extent of the repairs until the repairs are put in motion. Commissioners authorized the Public Works department to proceed with necessary repairs. Officials said that construction to repair the pipe would temporarily close Standard Street, but closure times would be minimal.

Commissioners approved Department of Transportation ordinances classifying how N.C. 268 is referenced in DOT records.

Dr. William Blackley of the Elkin Valley Trails Association updated commissioners on EVTA’s progress. Commissioner J.L. Lowe said that he attended the recent EVTA planning meeting and expressed tremendous enthusiasm by members supporting trails.

Commissioner Bob Norton asked EVTA to consider installing mileage posts along the trail that was being developed. Commissioner Skip Whitman chimed into the discussion and said that the mileage post consideration would make for a great Eagle Scout project.

Commissioners set expiration terms for Fireman’s Relief Fund appointees. Joe Walker was reappointed to the fund board.

Commissioners announced the grand opening of the China Garden and the Sheetz gas station scheduled for Thursday.

A brief discussion was held on how commissioners can have a topic appear on the agenda of a public meeting. Currently, commissioners contact the mayor who instructs the town manager to place the topic on the official agenda. The general consensus of commissioners were to keep with the same policy.

The next meeting of the Elkin Board of Commissioners will be on Jan. 30 for the town of Elkin’s project update meeting at 5:30 p.m.

Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 835-1513 or agonzalez@civitasmedia.com.