SKOWHEGAN — The Board of Selectmen is appealing to residents to help it decide whether the soon-to-be vacant seat held by Chairman Newell Graf should be left open until regular elections in June or be filled in a special election in the coming weeks.

By state law, Graf, who was elected a Somerset County commissioner last month, can’t hold both positions, Town Manager Christine Almand said Thursday. Graf takes office in January as commissioner from District 4, which consists of Skowhegan and Canaan.

Leaving just four members on the five-member board would mean votes deadlocked at 2-2 would fail, Almand said. She said the town manager is not allowed to vote to break a tie.

Holding a special election to fill the position for about four-and-a-half months would cost taxpayers at least $1,200, according to Almand, and following required election procedures would consume up to six weeks.

“The board met Tuesday night, and some of the members of the Board of Selectmen were undecided on whether or not to fill the vacancy and determined that they wanted more time to get citizen input,” she said. “I’m trying to help facilitate that. He is only able to serve in one of those capacities.”

Almand said she is asking residents to call or write to selectmen to voice their opinion. Selectmen plan to make a decision at their next regular meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 23.

Graf’s term of office as a Skowhegan selectman is up in June. The special election, if one is called, would fill the vacancy until the end of the term, but it will take time, Almand said. Nomination papers would be made available, and a special town meeting warrant would need to be drawn up and posted. Only then could an election be held. The result would be an actual term of office of about four-and-a-half months.

Almand said there is a precedent for having just four members on the board. When Selectman Don Lowe retired during his term of office recently, his seat remained vacant for about two months. Lowe’s position was filled this past June when Darla Pickett was elected to finish out the term.

Also, when Selectwoman Betty Austin was out following medical treatments, the board was left with just four members at its meetings for a couple of months.

In fact, Almand said, the Board of Selectmen worked with just three members for more than a month a couple of years ago when Joy Mase and Graf took vacations with their families at the same time.

Selectman Donald Skillings said Tuesday night he favors a special election, Almand said, while Graf opposes it. Pickett, Austin and York remain undecided, she said.

“Personally, I think they should just wait and fill it in the normal election this coming June, because my term is up in June,” Graf said. “Spending $1,200 to $1,500, $1,600 to do a special election where by the time you do it all, even if it’s expedited, the best-case scenario is maybe five months and the term is up in June. I don’t think it’s necessary to spend that money. You’ll still have four selectmen on the board that are more than capable doing the business.”

Skillings could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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