County to move polling place to safer building

Warren County needs to move one of its polling places after building officials deemed the location unsafe.

The Board of Supervisors plans to hold a public hearing Tuesday on a proposal to relocate the Otterburn Precinct polling site in the Fork District from the Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department station on Rivermont Drive to the Front Royal-Warren County Airport terminal on Stokes Airport Road.

General Registrar Carol Tobin said Friday she’s already begun the process of sending updated information cards to the nearly 2,900 voters registered in the precinct. Registrars are required to send voter cards no later than 15 days before an election.

In addition to new cards the registrar’s office plans to post notices in local newspapers and at the fire station advising voters to go to the airport to cast a ballot.

The county used the airport as a polling location until after the 2010 U.S. Census when it consolidated the Otterburn and Waterlick precincts. The county last used the airport for a presidential election in 2008 and the facility meets the requirements under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Whether or not the airport would remain as the polling location for the 2016 general election depends on if repairs are made to the fire station or if the county builds a new facility.

Earlier this year, Building Official David Beahm found that structural problems with the building rendered the second floor unsafe. Beahm also put certain restrictions in place for public access to the first floor.

The Electoral Board and Tobin began looking for a new polling location in July. The Electoral Board voted at an Aug. 17 meeting to move the polling place to the airport.

Virginia code requires that localities designate polling places by ordinance. A locality cannot change a location fewer than 60 days prior to an election. Tobin noted that county officials received that notice close to the 60-day window. The code allows a locality to adopt such an ordinance on an emergency basis without a public hearing. The county can then re-adopt the ordinance after a public hearing within 60 days.

The Board of Supervisors adopted an emergency ordinance on Aug. 18 that changed the polling place. This allowed the registrar’s office to prepare and mail new cards to registered voters in the Otterburn precinct with the new location.

Also earlier this year supervisors declined to move forward on an effort to build a new fire station for Rivermont and Fortsmouth Volunteer Fire Departments. The Department of Fire and Rescue Services made the recommendation based on a consultant’s study that cited structural problems with the Rivermont building. Supervisors voted against the proposal after hearing concerns made by some volunteers who feared their organization’s demise through the consolidation of the two agencies.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com