COVENTRY — Since Gary Cote’s resignation last month from the Coventry Town Council, the  District 4 seat has been empty. A special election to fill that open position is being arranged for early May, Interim Town Manager Ed Warzycha said this week, with a tentative primary date scheduled in April. 

The earliest that an election could be held to fill the vacancy is April 6, Warzycha said during Monday’s town council meeting. If necessary, a primary in that case would take place March 2. However, with a statewide bond referendum also scheduled for that date, the state Board of Elections suggested the town delay its special election. 

“I asked if we could just move it up a week, but we can’t. So we’ll have to move it up a month,” Warzycha said, noting that state law dictates elections be held on the Tuesday following the first Monday of the month. “And whether you need a primary or not, you have to assume that a primary will be necessary.”

So, he continued, the election will need to be held May 4, with April 6 reserved for a potential primary election, depending on the number of residents that opt to toss their hats into the ring.

To ensure that no residents feel they don’t have representation in the meantime, Town Council President Ann Dickson has volunteered to step in as a point of contact for District 4 residents. 

“This way, no one will feel that they are disenfranchised,” Dickson said. “I think that that will help provide a little bit of relief for some people who wonder, who do I call?”

Those interested in running for the District 4 council position need to declare their candidacy on Feb. 25 or 26.

While the District 4 Town Council seat remains vacant, so do several seats on various local boards and commissions. Councilors also heard an update Monday regarding those vacancies.  

The Tax Assessment Board of Review currently has one vacancy; there are two vacancies on the Coventry Historic Preservation Commission; the Juvenile Hearing Board has four open positions; there are three open seats on the Coventry Land Trust; and the Sewer Subcommittee has two seats open for full members and two for alternate members.   

There are also seven open positions on the Economic Development Commission, which Warzycha recently recommended reconstituting. He said during a town council meeting last month that the board is “sorely needed” to “try to bring this town into the 21st century.”

According to the town charter, the charge of the commission is to “promote and encourage the location and development of new business” and to “encourage the maintenance and expansion of trade and business” in the town.

“It’s been a number of years since we’ve had [the economic development commission],” Warzycha said during the meeting in December. “We’ve got to try to get as many talented individuals to apply for this position as possible.”

So far, he said Monday, four applications — three from residents and one from a town councilor — have been received for the commission. 

Warzycha said he’s had trouble attracting applicants for the town’s other open board positions, as well. 

Town Council Vice President Jennifer Ludwig encouraged those interested in having an impact on the town and how it operates to apply. 

“You have to start somewhere if you’re looking to make a change,” Ludwig said. 

Participating on a local board is a good way to learn “how things work,” she added.

“For people who want to contribute to Coventry, this is a very easy way to submit your name, and come in, and start learning how things work,” Ludwig said, adding that she’s “more than happy” to speak with any resident interested in getting involved. 

“Don’t let anything deter you from at least coming and trying,” she continued.

Applications can be found at the Coventry Town Hall or on the town’s website at www.coventryri.org

In other business, with the start of the 2022 fiscal year less than six months away, councilors voted Monday to approve a calendar for developing and adopting next year’s budget. 

The all-day Fiscal Year 2022 budget referendum will take place Thursday, May 13, with a series of work sessions and public hearings on the municipal, school and capital budgets scheduled over the months leading up to it. 

In discussing the calendar, councilors seemed to agree that they’d like to offer residents numerous opportunities to be heard throughout the budget process.  

Councilor James LeBlanc suggested adding a public hearing on a weekend for those who may be unable to attend during a weeknight. Councilors on Monday added a second hearing to the schedule for Saturday, April 10, in addition to the one scheduled on the preceding Wednesday.

Councilors also OK’d the ballot question for Coventry’s Jan. 21 all-day referendum, which will ask voters to either approve or reject a Fiscal Year 2021 budget calling for a 1.98 percent tax levy increase.

 

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