With Twist of Irony, Voters Denied Electronic Gadgets

Irony did not spare voters at the Oct. 28 special Town Meeting.

It began with a box of electronic voting devices and a tutorial on how to use them, and a vote that was decidedly opposed to them.

The town borrowed about 450 devices from Orlando, Florida based-Options Technologies. Perhaps if CEO Mark Fite had schmoozed with voters, he might have persuaded them to use the units. But Fite was at another Town Meeting, so there was no one to encourage Westford voters that it would be worth having.

The idea of using a clicker for registering votes sprung from the March annual Town Meeting when a number of head counts to clarify hot button issues slowed the progress so much that Town Manager Jodi Ross announced she would look into electronic devices.

Select Board members Tom Clay and Mark Kost vote in favor of spending about $75K for new software for the town.

“I’m proposing a non-binding resolution to bring electronic voting to our next Town Meeting,” Ross said, noting that she was making her proposal as a resident and not as the town manager.

Despite support from Town Moderator Susan McNeill Spuhler, voters wanted to stick with the tried and true method of standing up and being counted.

So a short while later when a voice vote couldn’t distinguish the yeas from the nays for Article 6 seeking funds to purchase software, voters stood tall and poll takers started counting. The measure won 168 to 84.

In a second vote for Article 6, voters approved the creation of a revolving fund for the collection of a fee that will fund stormwater upgrades mandated by the federal government

In all, 13 articles were decided and all passed, including Article 6 that sought to spend about $75K on accounting software. The software will help the town track a new fee that will soon begin charging property owners for impervious surfaces. A new set of federal requirements for stormwater management prompted select board members to assess a fee on property owners.

Update — The number of votes regarding an article seeking permission to purchase a software accounting package was corrected.