Clayton Town Council members decided against increasing polling hours in town elections Monday night at their council meeting.
The Election Committee had recommended during a July 31 committee meeting that voting hours be increased by one hour at the urging of Committee Chair Howard Blackstone.
When the recommendation came to council Monday night, Councilman Alex Dias made a motion to keep polling hours as they are instead of increasing them an hour; council approved the motion unanimously.
Voting hours will continue to be from 2 to 7 p.m. the day of the town election, which is the last Tuesday in April.
Before voting on the motion, council members did take a few minutes to explain why they were possibly voting to not change polling hours.
Councilman Dave Letterman said it would take more than a council vote to change polling times. The possible change would need to go before the Delaware legislature.
Plus Letterman and Councilman Skip Carrow pointed out the substantial fees the town would face because town lawyer Scott Chambers would need to do the prep work.
"It's not as easy as passing a motion," Letterman said.
Councilwoman Mary Ellen DeBenedictis noted committee members did extensive research to assist them in the decision-making process. She also said absentee ballots are available to make voting easier. Directions for using an absentee ballot are on the town website.
"There are other avenues for voting," she said.
Residents voice concerns with electric bills
A few residents stepped forward at the meeting regarding their frustrations with their high electric bills and town late fees.
Althea and Dexter Perry approached council regarding being charged late fees for their electric bill. Althea said she paid her bill 15 minutes late – she paid the bill at 9:15 a.m. the day after it was due – and eventually got a letter stating she needed to pay a $30 late fee or face disconnection.
"Town staff said it wouldn't be cut off because of a late fee but that's not what the letter says," Althea said.
Moreover, neither Althea nor Dexter were happy with the way she was treated by town staff during the situation. Althea said town staff was catty with her.
Mayor Tom Horn suggested the two attend an Electric Committee and Personnel Committee meeting to discuss their issues. Regarding the late bill payment, Horn said the town has a bill to pay too and it can't be 15 minutes late.
Letterman added residents can't compare town electric rates to other groups like Delmarva Power because the town offers services such as police and snow removal.
"Electric helps fund public works," Letterman said. "The money has to come from somewhere."
Dexter said a lot of people that moved to Clayton from a city don't know realize the town offers such services through the money brought in from utility bills.
When another resident also voiced frustration with a similar situation with an electric bill and town staff, Horn asked her to write a note regarding town personnel.
Town Foreman Jeff Hurlock did say that it's not the town workers shutting off resident's power; it's a town policy.
"We're following the town policy so please don't say we're doing it," Hurlock said. "We've been written up before for not following the policy."
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