As published in the Record Journal, Monday November 14, 2011
By Robert Cyr
WALLINGFORD — As voters head to the polls today to decide whether or not to support the town’s 30-year lease agreements for a municipal parking area behind Simpson Court, groups that back either side of the issue will make their final push to sway residents to cast their ballots in favor of their viewpoint.
The Town Council in August approved the lease agreements, which say the town will supply up to $500,000 in upgrades and maintenance to the parking area owned by four building owners in exchange for municipal use of the lot. A successful petition drive forced today’s referendum.
The Simpson Court parking deal has been a hot-button issue since the council’s action, and signs from two political action committees far outnumbered campaign signs for candidates in last week’s municipal elections.
Republican Councilor Craig Fishbein, one of two councilors who voted against the lease, said he would be handing out leaflets to encourage people to vote “yes,” which would repeal the lease agreements.
“I’ll be out there telling people what they need to know about this — there seems to be a lot of confusion,” he said.
Christopher Diorio, vice chairman of the Republican Town Committee and head of the political action committee Support Our Downtown, said more than 400 signs have gone up at homes and businesses and a staff of a half-dozen volunteers would spend the last days calling up registered voters. Support Our Downtown is in favor of the 30-year lease and improvements to the parking area. A final effort will be made today to hand out flyers at post offices and grocery stores, in addition to ads in local newspapers, Diorio said Friday.
“It’s certainly been a challenge because people are very confused, and they want to know why it’s not on Election Day, and they’re confused about the yes and no situation,” he said. “It’s less of a challenge than a process.”
A “No” vote keeps the leases in place.
Council members voted to hold the referendum on a separate day after the Republican Registrar of Voters Chester Miller told them it would be a strain on the voting system due to the limited number of ballot machines and minimum space needed.