By Ben Rodgers
HOBART – The village of Hobart will reduce costs for an election where nobody can vote by making a temporary change of the polling place.
The change stems from the special election being called to fill the vacant seat in the 1st Senate District left by Sen. Frank Lasse, who vacated his seat in December for a job in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration.
“It’s really weird because a small slice of the 1st Senate District is included in Hobart,” said Aaron Kramer, village administrator. “There’s nothing there. There’s no people. There’s no residents. The closest thing to a voter would be a wandering deer or a raccoon going through there. There’s nothing there.”
At the Wednesday, April 4, village board meeting, the village board learned that regardless of the lack of occupancy, there will still need to be a polling place for the May 15 primary and the June 12 general election.
Kramer said village staff tried to discuss this issue with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, but to no avail.
“The answer is you have to have a polling place open,” he said after the meeting. “Literally there’s no difference between us going out in the ditch and throwing tax dollars away vs. opening up a polling place and having people sitting there all day. Literally, if someone showed up to vote, we’d have a bigger story.”
Village staff came up with the idea of moving the polling place temporarily to the village offices, which then can be partially staffed by village employees, who will still be able to do their normal jobs because no one will be voting.
“We have the staff here to meet the minimum requirements of staffing a polling place that the state requires,” Kramer said. “We creatively avoided wasting tax dollars.”
There is still a requirement and cost for the village to include the chief election inspector, the printing of ballots, the programming for the machines and the legal advertisement.
That will cost the village $350. But by moving the polling place the village will save $620.
“I still have to program my machine. I still have to have ballots. It’s insane,” said Mary Smith, clerk-treasurer, after the meeting. “I still have to pay for the legal ads, which the county puts in and then we pay them back. So really the only thing we’re going to be able to save on costs is the rental of the building and the workers.”
For all other regular elections the polling place at St. Joseph’s Church will remain. The only elections where the polling place is being moved is for these special elections.
In other news, the village board decided to no longer rent out Fire Station No. 1 for personal use.
“We’re going to discontinue renting Fire Station No. 1 and covert the space into more of a meeting or training area, with no impact on the budget,” Kramer said. “We do rent out the shelter at Four Seasons Park and we will continue to do that, and those rental numbers have been increasing over the last three to four years.”
Kramer said the village will work with anyone who made reservations so far this year.
“We will work with the limited number of reservations already made this year for the fire station to accommodate their needs before fully implementing the new policy,” Kramer said.
The board also honored Cindy Kocken, former deputy clerk-treasurer, with a resolution at the meeting.
Kocken was first employed with the village in 1997.
“Cindy has been an integral key to the success of the Hobart Water, Sanitary Sewer and Storm Water Utilities, and has performed beyond her specific job description in the improvement of the quality of life in Hobart…” the resolution read.