By Greg Elias
For 45 years, voters have cast ballots at Williston Central School. But tight parking and safety concerns made town officials conclude it was time for a change.
Town Clerk Deb Beckett said Williston’s Board of Civil Authority decided last week to move the voting venue. An informal agreement has been struck to hold balloting at the Army National Guard Armory, located just across U.S. 2 from the school.
“For several years, we’ve had issues with parking and safety concerns,” Beckett said. “People are coming and going while students are running back and forth. It’s amazing no kids have been hit.”
There are far more open parking spaces near the Armory, which is located next to Town Hall, Beckett said. Parking at the school is difficult to find when school is in session, which is the case in March and November when elections take place. And she said voters driving to the polls create safety hazards for students.
Motorists arriving at the Williston Central School must navigate the one-way, horseshoe-shaped driveway and then circle parking lots in a sometimes fruitless search for an open space.
Sgt. 1st Class Wendell Morse, who works out of the Armory, said there is an informal agreement to allow voting there. He said a written agreement could be finalized at a later date.
Most activity at the Armory occurs on Friday afternoons and weekends, when training exercises take place. Morse said voting, which is held Tuesdays, would not conflict with military operations.
There are about 50 spaces in the newly renovated parking lot at Town Hall, said Neil Boyden, Williston’s public works director. There are at least 10 spaces around the Armory.
Voting has been held at Williston Central School since 1962, Beckett said. In 1960 and 1961, balloting took place at the Armory. During most of the 1950s, voting was conducted at Town Hall.
At least for the next election in March, Beckett said an informal agreement with the Army National Guard that allows voting at the Armory may suffice. She said she wants to see how the new venue works before striking a long-term agreement.
“Before we make anything permanent I really want to make sure it works,” Beckett said.