Mount Airy officials have said they want to change the municipality’s election procedure — but the public also is getting a chance to have a say.
During its next meeting Thursday at 2 p.m., the city board of commissioners is expected to vote to hold a public hearing on a proposal that effectively would end the primary system used in Mount Airy elections.
Primaries, or preliminary elections, have been required whenever three or more candidates file to run for a particular office, with the two top vote-getters then going head to head in the general election. But there has been momentum among city officials to eliminate primaries, based on monetary and turnout factors.
The last city primary in October 2011, involving three candidates for at-large commissioner, cost municipal taxpayers $11,236 while drawing less than 6 percent of registered voters to the polls.
Normally, primaries are conducted to narrow down candidates of different political parties; Mount Airy’s elections are non-partisan. Under the change now being considered, primaries would be replaced by what City Attorney Hugh Campbell called a “winner-take-all” process in which all candidates face off in the general election.
The “non-partisan plurality” method now being eyed for the city will achieve that end.
“This would be in line with what almost every municipality does,” Campbell added Monday afternoon.
Although the new procedure would not allow a runoff in cases where the winner did not achieve a clear-cut majority, a candidate who lost by less than one percent of the vote could seek a recount. If the two top candidates receive the same number of votes, the Surry County Board of Elections will determine the winner by lot.
City commissioners gave the nod to such a change at a planning retreat last winter, but rejected a related proposal to move Mount Airy’s election’s from odd to even years.
But switching to the nonpartisan plurality method requires the adoption of a resolution of intent to amend the city charter and a public hearing. Feb. 21 is the date suggested date for the hearing.
The change has significance for this year, with Mayor Deborah Cochran as well as commissioners Jon Cawley and Steve Yokeley up for re-election. All three have said they will run again.
Another matter to be considered by the commissioners Thursday relates to a recent problem with the HVAC system at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. The municipality is being asked to pay part of the cost of a 20-ton unit that has failed, which services the main floor of the museum.
The commissioners will consider Thursday a one-time allocation of $5,000 to assist with its total replacement cost of $20,558.
That allocation would come from a contingency account, for emergency-related needs, in the city’s general fund.
Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is among four “outside” organizations that receive municipal funding annually. This year, the combined total for all four, also including the Mount Airy Rescue Squad, Mount Airy Public Library and Surry Arts Council, exceeded $200,000.
Also on the board’s agenda are:
• A resolution to accept a request to dedicate Greystone Lane and Wellsley Circle to the city. They form the road network for Greystone Condos, a 12-unit development built about seven years ago near the State Employees Credit Union on South Franklin Road. The resolution to be considered Thursday would alter Greystone Lane’s and Wellsley Circle’s status from private to public and make them part of the city street system for maintenance purposes.
• The appointment of Sharon Greenwood Reid to a seat on the governing board of the city housing authority, which oversees public-housing neighborhoods. Reid is to complete an unexpired term of Hylton Wright, a longtime member, who resigned in September for health reasons and later died. The term ends in February 2014.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.