SKOWHEGAN — Selectmen voted this week not to hold a special election to fill the soon-to-be vacant seat held by Chairman Newell Graf, who takes over as a Somerset County commissioner next month.

The question for the board Tuesday night was whether the seat should be left open until regular elections in June or be filled in a special election in the coming weeks. The 4-1 vote by the board Tuesday means there will not be a special election and the five-member board will operate with four members until June.

Selectman Donald Skillings was the lone dissenter in the vote. Skillings previously has said there is important work to be done by the board in the coming weeks and that a four-member board would result in deadlock on matters including the assessment of the value for taxation of the Sappi paper mill.

“I personally see both sides, the expense of the election vs. a short term selectmen,” Skillings said earlier this month. “I believe, however, that we will more than likely be dealing with large tax abatement issues and a new budget and having a full board for full representation would be nice as well.”

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

Almand 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.

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.

Earlier this year, 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.

Almand also noted that 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.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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