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It was a full house for the Jan. 7 Deep River Town Meeting to discuss Board of Selectmen appointments. (Photo by Karena Garrity/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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There were more than 200 town residents at the Jan. 7 Deep River Town Meeting, which was called to approve the Board of Selectmen (BOS) appointments to the Health Committee, the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC), and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The public microphone was quickly readied for pubic comment, as it was apparent that many residents had something to say. Most were there to comment and vote on the controversial BOS decision to appoint former Deep River zoning enforcement officer Cathie Jefferson as an alternate to the PZC and not reappoint long-time PZC member Jane Samuels.
Jefferson’s nomination received both support and opposition from speakers. Speakers also questioned First Selectman Angus McDonald’s motivation in the process.
“I moved here 15 years ago with my wife to build a life and a business,” replied McDonald, who co-owns The Lace Factory. “My long-term intention is to remain the first selectman in town and to continue to do my best to move Deep River forward.”
A half hour into the meeting, as it was clear that many more opinion were ready to be shared, resident Peter Lewis said, “I move we go to vote now. Most of us came here tonight with a preconceived notion of how we are going to vote so I move we vote now.”
That motion was seconded and the vote was taken by paper ballot. It was led and counted by the town’s registrars. After the count it was announced that there were 144 votes placed against Jefferson and 66 votes placed for Jefferson being appointed to the PZC, so she was not appointed.
All other nominees won support for their appointments. The appointees includes Community Health Committee member Joanna P. Giuliano, Carol Jones, Grace Krick, and Russell G. Marth; PZC members David Basilone and Chris Desrosiers and alternate Daphne M. Stroud; and Zoning Board of Appeals member Donald Grohs.
What happens now with the open PZC alternate seat?
McDonald explained that its back to the drawing board.
“There are folks who have expressed interest in being on the commission; we will have to see if they are still interested,” he said. “We will fill the alternate position as soon as we can.”
Although many town residents thought that the town meeting was called especially because of the controversy surrounding Jefferson’s appointment, McDonald explained that a town meeting is held every year to approve the BOS appointments for the Community Health Committee, PZC, and Zoning Board of Appeals.
“This was nothing out of the ordinary,” said McDonald.
McDonald also applauded the fact that so many residents were at the meeting and hopes that an increase in resident involvement continues in town.
The large turnout could have, in part, been due to a postcard sent out anonymously to registered Republican voters in town, encouraging them to vote against Jefferson’s appointment. The card had the Town Hall listed as its return address. The matter is currently under investigation by the Deep River Post Office.
The postcards reportedly contained the same verbiage as an ad in the Jan. 2 Valley Courier. That ad did not contain an attribution, which is called for in the Courier’s standard practice with political advertising. That Jan. 2 ad was placed by resident Brett Thompson on behalf of a group of Deep River voters; Thompson was not given proper guidance on attribution requirements by the Courier.
The town addressed the rogue mailing in a Jan. 6 emailed message from the Selectmen’s Office, which stated, “The postcards mailed throughout our town regarding a scheduled town meeting bear no connection whatsoever with the town or anyone connected with the Town Hall. However, the anonymous authors may have done us a favor. Nothing could be more democratic than a well-attended town meeting. Please join us at 6:30 on Tuesday, January 7th, at the Richard H. Smith Town Hall for a civil, respectful conversation and vote. Please remember to bring ID.”
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