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1 POLLING SITE SET FOR SCHOOL REFERENDUM

Normally, there are 26 polling places in the City of Lackawanna for regular elections and nine for school district votes.

For the Dec. 14 referendum on three propositions for school district improvements, there'll be just one.

The Lackawanna School Board took a daring step away from the status quo in designating the Senior High School as the only polling place. Schools Superintendent Paul G. Hashem said the momentum for change had been building during the past few years.

Hashem said low voter turnout has been coupled with confusion about the location of polling places. In last May's elections, only 25 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, he said.

By having the polling place at the high school, where the voting machines are stored, the district will save $1,600 in moving costs each time there's a vote, Hashem said. In addition, the school has room to conduct the vote, and arrangements are in the works for students to park elsewhere that day, freeing up space for voters.

But the decision wasn't made without debate within the School Board or challenges from the community.

Board member John W. Makeyenko argued, and board member Robert T. Friend agreed, that there should be one polling place in each of the city's four wards. Many senior citizens in the city's First Ward don't have transportation, Makeyenko reasoned. City Councilman Ricardo Estrada, who represents the First Ward, chimed in with a Nov. 10 letter to the School Board.

"The single polling place serves not only as an inconvenience for voters but is somewhat discriminatory to all voters who are not located within a reasonable distance of the polling place," he wrote.

District officials believe they have a solution for that. Three buses will shuttle voters to the high school on Martin Road, where polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Each shuttle will handle a share of 56 stops, with return buses leaving the high school every 45 minutes.

The complete shuttle schedule will be published this week in the weekly newspaper distributed in Lackawanna.

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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