Town council finalizes election day change in split vote

 Hancock election to move to April following comment period


Hancock’s municipal election will officially move from January to April starting in 2021 after a 3-2 final vote on the change during the October town meeting on Monday. The meeting had been postponed from last Wednesday.

Council members were split on finalizing the change, with Tim Boyer and Leo Murray voting in favor of the change and Tim Smith and Roland Lanehart, Jr. voting against. The tie was broken by Mayor Ralph Salvagno’s vote in favor of pushing the town’s election into spring.

Monday’s vote wrapped up a process that started in January of 2019, when town officials began the discussion and passed a resolution to move the election date. Officials, however, failed to provide the proper 21 day notification for a public hearing at that time.

With this week’s passage of the change of the charter, a fair statement must be published and posted at Town Hall for 40 days. If there are no objections, on the 50th day the change becomes effective.

That 50th day would be December 8.

Salvagno began the discussion with letting those in attendance know Smith had an objection to the legality of moving forward with the resolution.

The mayor said as they moved forward, Smith should still be able to discuss it without feeling his objection is negated.

Boyer said the decision made last year was because the people and concerns about the weather in January, such as a snowstorm.

He said the weather in January could still be potentially bad and nothing has changed “except for the fact that the former town manager didn’t do the paperwork right.”

“We made that decision for the citizens of Hancock,” he said. “I don’t have any reason to change my decision I made a year ago on this.”

Murray said he felt the same way as they made the decision for the people and, if he should run again, he didn’t want to stand in the cold campaigning.

Murray also brought up the fact the first elections in Hancock were, for a long period of time, held in April.

“Everybody that was on the council voted to do that,” he said.

Smith, Boyer, and Murray were council members in January 2019.

Smith said if the change was made, it needed to be the proper way and the town needed to “suck that up” the previous town manager didn’t “do his job right.”

When moving forward, when doing things, the town needs to do everything properly, Tim Smith said.

Smith also said the public hearing that was held prior to the start of the meeting should have been rescheduled because it was advertised as the original meeting date of October 14.

No one from the public attended the Monday hearing or the meeting.

Salvagno asked Smith if people did in fact show up on Wednesday evening for the meeting. Smith  said he didn’t know.

Murray then asked Smith multiple times what his objection was for not wanting to move forward on the charter change.

Smith said he didn’t care about the change, just that things are done correctly and so the ordeal doesn’t happen again in the future.

Boyer agreed with Smith in that things needed to be done correctly.

With the three weeks of a hearing notification being run in the newspaper, Salvagno said officials would have expected someone to say something to them already.

“Additionally, there is a means of addressing this if they don’t like the motion and that is if someone chooses to get a petition together of 20 percent of the electorate and then this is called to a referendum,” he said.

Lanehart gave his opinion the charter change should have been put on a ballot and let the people decide when the election takes place.

With his vote in favor, Salvagno said he believes it was the intent of the council and the intent of the people to have the election moved from January to April.

After the meeting adjourned, Lanehart verbally attacked Salvagno, saying he didn’t have the fortitude to vote in favor of a fix to the former visitors center, which he said the town was responsible for, but had the fortitude to vote for the election.

He said the three people voting in favor of the change all have seats coming up for election.

Murray and Boyer are finishing out their current four-year terms while Salvagno is finishing up his second two-year term as mayor.

Lanehart lashed out at Murray, cussing him and others as Police Chief Jim Robison and members of the media looked on. Chief Robison intervened and asked Lanehart to leave the meeting area.