By just 32 votes, voters in Alden on Tuesday approved a proposition to reduce the size of its Town Board by two members, from five to three.
With more than 2,000 votes cast, the proposition passed by a vote of 1,052 to 1,020.
The result wasn't announced until nearly an hour after the polls closed at 7 p.m. After the machine ballots were quickly counted, it became apparent that the vote would be close, with only 83 votes separating those in favor of the downsizing and those against it.
Inspectors then proceeded to count the 126 absentee ballots, six of which had to be disqualified, one after it was determined that the voter had also cast a machine vote and five others that were blank.
After the results of the election were revealed, downsizing advocate Kevin Gaughan said he was thrilled despite the close vote.
"I think the closeness of the vote, at the end of the day, reflects how long it has been since anything has changed in this community and the fear that we have developed to change," said Gaughan.
"And I think, again, this light of change and reform and renewal is getting brighter every week here in Western New York, and I think we're going to show the way to the rest of the state . . . how citizens can stand up and say 35 years of economic decline is enough," Gaughan continued.
"When Alden is restored to its rightful place as a vibrant and functional community, historians in Alden will look back and say tonight was the first step back, and I'm proud to have played a small role in it," he added.
Town Supervisor Ron Smith said officials anticipated a close election.
"We had thought all along that it was going to be close. Thirty-two votes out of 2,000, I guess the emotions were rather mixed on the issue in the Town of Alden. I'm impressed by the number of people who voted. Obviously, the feelings on the matter pretty much say that it's a flip of a coin," Smith said.
Before the polling was over, Smith, who was against the downsizing, noted that it would not save the town a lot of money.
Voting turnout was steady in the town most of the day. Town Clerk Dorothy Bycina said voters turned out in stronger numbers than in most primaries. Voting got off to a rough start when the voting machines refused to spit out printed receipts, but that matter was quickly fixed, she said.
Cars and trucks pulled up to Town Hall all afternoon, inundating the small parking lot. While residents drove past a mixture of signs asking residents to vote "YES" or "NO" on the downsizing question as they approached Town Hall, "NO" signs littered the Town Hall driveway.
"I didn't know there were so many people in the Town of Alden," said Helen Merle, 85, clearly bemused by all the cars and people filing in and out of the lot.
She and her friend Harriet Eggleston, 84, said they voted against downsizing.
"I've lived here 50-plus years, and it's just a great little town," Eggleston said. "I don't want to rattle the cage."
An informal straw poll of voters leaving the voting area Tuesday afternoon showed a fairly even split between the number of residents both in favor, and against, downsizing the board. And the final tally reflected this.
"I thought about it a long time," said Dan Shields, 71. "My initial reaction was I was going to vote for it, but I decided to vote against it."
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