Royalston Special Elections to decide debt exclusions, Selectboard seat

GARYWINITZER

GARYWINITZER FILE PHOTO

(From left) Royalston Selectboard Chair Christine Long and member Roland Hamel at a 2019 Selectboard meeting.

(From left) Royalston Selectboard Chair Christine Long and member Roland Hamel at a 2019 Selectboard meeting. FILE PHOTO

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 07-05-2024 4:44 PM

Modified: 07-15-2024 2:01 PM


ROYALSTON – Between now and the first Tuesday in September, voters in Royalston will be going to the polls twice.

A Special Town Election scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 6, will determine the fate of three Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusions and one override. The second Special Town Election is to fill a seat on the Selectboard left vacant by the resignation of then-Chair Rick Martin and will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

The August election will take place at Town Hall and polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. The September election will also take place at Town Hall and polls will be open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

Four votes on funding

One of the debt exclusions seeks $755,000 to be used, in part, to pay for supplies so Monty Tech students can undertake rehabilitation of the former Raymond School building for use as town offices.

The other two exclusions will, if passed, provide one new vehicle each for the police and public works departments. Question 1 seeks a bond of $72,000 for a one-ton pickup truck for the DPW; Question 2 requests a $62,000 bond to purchase a new police cruiser.

Police Chief Curtis Deveneau told voters at the Annual Town Meeting last month that the cruiser would be powered by an internal combustion engine. At the 2023 Town Meeting, voters balked at funding either a hybrid or an all-electric vehicle, concerned that the town would have to pay for the installation of a recharging station.

The override seeks $75,000 to fund the hiring of one full-time police officer. Deveneau has explained that this officer is needed to provide the kind of police coverage wanted by residents. Royalston is the only community in Worcester County that remains wholly dependent on part-time officers. Just over two years ago, the police department had 19 officers and at present, that number is down to nine. The town is dependent on the State Police to provide patrols that fill the gaps in staffing.

Selectboard SpecialElection

The election to fill the vacancy on the Selectboard will take place the same day as the primary election to choose nominees for all statewide offices. A separate ballot for the municipal election will be provided to voters.

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At present, only two people have taken out nomination papers to run for the Selectboard, each of whom is a former member – Roland Hamel and Gary Winitzer. In 2022, Hamel ran for re-election and was defeated by Martin, 93-64. In April of this year, Bill Chapman defeated Winitzer, 211-38.

When Martin resigned his seat in March, Shelby Bronnes – who has assumed the role of Selectboard chair and has been on the board just over a year – said the news struck her like “a bolt out of the blue.”

“It was really a shock to learn that he was resigning, and as quickly as he did,” she said on Friday. “This whole thing has been a learning process for me. When I came on the board, I decided I’d kind of sit back – listen and learn, take in as much as I can, ask questions when I can. Now, a year and a half in, all of a sudden, here I am.”

Bronnes said other town officials have been a tremendous help in acquainting her with serving as Selectboard chair. She said Rebecca Krause-Hardie, the town’s finance director, “has helped immensely.” Former Selectboard members Deb D’Amico and Linda Alger have also provided guidance and offered valuable advice, as have administrative assistants Michelle Deline and Deb Rios.

“The meetings right now are a little bit messy,” said Bronnes, “but they’ll get less messy eventually…I hope. But, so far so good. Still, I look forward to getting somebody on the board in September.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@aol.com.