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Carrboro Board of Aldermen will hold special election in March

After a Carrboro alderman resigned earlier this month to move to Australia, the town could be out as much as $18,000 to replace him.

The position opened up after former Alderman Dan Coleman, who has served on the board since 2006, resigned Jan. 5.

So far, Carrboro resident Damon Seils is the only person who has announced his intent to run for the position.

During its Tuesday night meeting, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen set the election for March 19.

“I do think it would be unusual to go for nearly a year with a vacancy on the Board of Aldermen,” said Seils, who serves as the first vice-chairman of the Carrboro Planning Board.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the aldermen discussed postponing filling the vacancy until the general election in November — which wouldn’t cost the town any additional money.

“When someone resigns on Jan. 5, it in essence is an entire year without a board member,” said Alderman Lydia Lavelle.

But the board unanimously agreed it was necessary to fill the empty seat as quickly as possible. Candidates can file to run for the seat from Feb. 1 to Feb. 15.

“I think the timing is as maximum as it could be,” Lavelle said.

In an effort to keep the cost of the election low, the board opted to keep the early voting period to the minimum time required.

Town Clerk Cathy Wilson said this move would lower the cost of the special election to less than the original estimate of $18,000.

She said the special election is more costly than the general election — which only costs the town $10,000 — because the town shares the costs with Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools during a general election.

Until 2007, the board could appoint someone to fill vacancies — a process that wouldn’t require any additional funding from the town.

But Wilson said this process was changed after the board came to a three-to-three tie on the decision to appoint Coleman to the board in 2006.

Chapel Hill still uses this process, and the Chapel Hill Town Council will appoint a candidate to the council later this month to fill the seat vacated in December by Penny Rich.

Several aldermen voiced a desire at Tuesday’s meeting to amend Carrboro’s charter again to re-allow the option of appointment.

But they agreed to wait until after the current vacancy is filled, honoring the decision they made last time this issue came up.

“I think it is sloppy around the edges,” said Alderman Jacquelyn Gist.

“On the other hand, I was certainly part in parcel of the group that made the decision after our last appointment, which was really so contentious that it took a while for the community to heal afterwards.”

And Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton agrees that while the election might seem costly, he stands by his 2007 support for the change.

“I’m starting to think that it may be one of the silliest decisions I ever made, but it’s a decision I made,” he said.

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