Mount Airy officials put the wheels into motion Thursday afternoon for ending the municipality’s longtime primary election system.
The city board of commissioners — two members of which are up for re-election this year along with the mayor — voted unanimously in favor of a resolution of intent to scrap primaries in favor of the “non-partisan plurality” method.
Board members will hold a public hearing at another meeting on Feb. 21, which is required before the change can occur.
The non-partisan plurality procedure means all candidates, regardless of number, face off in the general municipal election and the winner takes all. Under the existing format, a primary is required when three or more candidates file for a particular race, with the top two finishers advancing to the general election.
“This is more cost-effective, more efficient and historically produces the biggest turnout,” City Attorney Hugh Campbell said during Thursday’s meeting regarding the non-partisan plurality option.
It is used by every other municipality in Surry County, Campbell added, and most of those in the state.
Cost and turnout factors have been cited by Mount Airy officials in the move to end primaries here.
The last city primary in October 2011, for example, drew less than 6 percent of registered voters to the polls while leaving a price tag of $11,236.
Campbell said one reason for expediting the change was the impending municipal election this year, when Mayor Deborah Cochran and commissioners Steve Yokeley and Jon Cawley are up for re-election. All three have said they will run again, although the official candidate filing period does not open for several more months.
In response to a question from Cochran, Campbell said Thursday that the proposed change would be in effect for the 2013 election.
Commissioner Shirley Brinkley also expressed support Thursday for doing away with early voting for the municipal election due to a low turnout and the significant cost of this service.
But no action was taken on that issue, which officials will discuss during a city government planning retreat at the end of this month.
Also Thursday, the commissioners voted in favor of a request to dedicate two streets to the city, which effectively means they are officially accepted into the municipal road system for maintenance purposes.
That action was basically a housekeeping move regarding Greystone Lane and Wellsley Circle, which form the street network for the Greystone condominium complex located off South Franklin Road. The 12 condos there were constructed about seven years ago, with the two streets built to city specifications and the municipality maintaining them since.
“It (appears) from the records that this was overlooked several years ago,” said Andy Goodall, a city planner.
A petition was presented to Mount Airy officials signed by 16 people favoring the move, which was approved in a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Steve Yokeley abstained from both the discussion and the decision on the matter, explaining that he has a financial interest in the site in question.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.