Township moves polling place after mold found

ALPENA TOWNSHIP — Voters in Precincts No. 4 and No. 5 in the Charter Township of Alpena will need to vote during the special election on Tuesday at a new polling location after the original site was deemed unusable because of a breakout of black mold.

The township was forced to take quick action to find a new polling location — only days before the vote takes place — after learning of the issue Wednesday.

At a special meeting on Thursday, the township Board of Trustees passed a proclamation moving the polling place from the Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District office, 2118 U.S.-23, to the township’s South Side fire station across the street.

State law says a legislative body cannot move, abolish or establish a polling place within 60 days of the election, unless it has been damaged, destroyed, or rendered inaccessible or unusable. The AMA-ESD was determined to be unusable.

Township Supervisor Nathan Skibbe said the township only recently found out about the mold and was forced to scramble to find an alternative location. He said the fire station used to double as a polling site for years and will be adequate for the special election.

Skibbe said the the last-minute change was initiated by the AMA-ESD, but the township is taking every step needed to avoid any confusion on Election Day.

“It is an unfortunate situation, and we’re doing everything in our power to work with the county to make this as easy and transparent for the voting public directly affected by this needed change,” Skibbe said. “Having it at the fire department should minimize any more potential confusions, as most people know the location of it.”

AMA-ESD Superintendent Scott Reynolds said the mold was found while crews were doing some minor renovations. Although the mold isn’t in the area where voting would have taken place, he said there will be construction going on in the building on Election Day. He said he hoped to have the problem remedied before Tuesday, but it became clear that wasn’t going to be the case.

Reynolds said another consideration for changing venues was because some people could have adverse health affects if exposed to the mold.

“We don’t need the polling to be uncomfortable for the voters in the community,” he said. “Safety of our students, staff, and the public is always our first priority. It is unfortunate that we couldn’t fulfill the agreement with the township, but we are hopeful we will be able to renew it, later.”

Skibbe said the number of absentee ballots the township has received may mean fewer people end up using the polling place to vote. Township Clerk Michelle Palevich the township issued 638 absentee ballots and already 540 have been returned.

Polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Voters in Alpena Township and across Alpena County will be asked to consider a renewal of the county library’s 0.25-mill operating millage.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.