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North Stonington residents approve items at first hybrid town meeting

North Stonington  — About 120 residents voting from home and in person, approved six items Monday night during the town's first hybrid town meeting.

About two-thirds of residents cast ballots from home and the other third voted in person at the Wheeler School Gymnatorium, where the meeting was held.

On Tuesday, First Selectman Mike Urgo said he thought the meeting went well and participation was above average for a town meeting without a controversial issue or major expenditure. 

Urgo said some residents said they appreciated having the option to participate from home.

"More participation is a good thing," he said. "I definitely think this is the wave of the future."

Each person wishing to vote had to preregister and attend on their own electronic device as town officials conducted an electronic poll of virtual attendees on each of the seven questions and only one vote was allowed per device.

By a vote of 70-52, residents approved an ordinance that now allows residents to vote for first selectman and cast two votes for the two selectmen positions. This will allow the Republican and Democratic town committees to each run two candidates for selectman and one for first selectman. This will ensure a contested election for both positions.

Currently, each party nominates a candidate for first selectman, which becomes a contested race, and one candidate for selectman. This means both selectman candidates run unopposed and get elected unless there is unaffiliated candidate.

Residents also voted 83-24 to appropriate $35,000 for new radios for the volunteer fire department and 79-25 to sell the fire department's 1993 Peterbilt tanker/pumper. By a vote of 54-47, they rejected a proposal to spend $60,325 to upgrade the town's financial software.

Other communities with town meeting forms of government are creating their own types of hybrid meetings amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Last month, neighboring Stonington held a town meeting in which voters commented on the agenda items during a virtual session and then drove to Town Hall, where they stayed in their cars and placed their votes in a ballot box.


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