WINDSOR - Town residents apparently have garnered enough support to force a special town election to fill a vacancy on the Board of Selectmen - even if only for a couple of months.
More than 150 people have signed a petition to replace board member Erin Kirchner, who resigned in July.
Selectmen Pete Fusini and Brian Koczela had decided against filling the seat, which expires in June. But resident Valerie Bird said she began the petition drive because many residents want a full board during winter and the upcoming budget season.
"If they didn't have [the special election], the next [town election] is not until May," she said. "That's a long time."
Bird said it took her "two Saturdays at the transfer station" to gather enough signatures to force a special election by petition - 20 percent or more of the town's 653 registered voters. Once the 152 signatures are certified by Town Clerk Evelyn Bird - nearly completed as of Thursday - the matter would next get taken up by the Selectmen at their next meeting. Koczela and Fusini would then assume responsibility for scheduling the event.
Evelyn Bird is the stepmother of Valerie Bird's husband.
The clerk and the two selectmen had opposed the election because of the cost - estimated at about $1,000 - plus the new selectman's salary.
" Four or five years ago a selectmen resigned in October and the board chose not to [hold a special election]," the clerk said. "One of our two current selectmen was on the board then, in fact. They managed that time and I feel these two intelligent men would manage, too.
" The voters have chosen," she added. "But I'm not one of them."
And balloting could not be held for at least 64 days from when the board votes to call the special election. So the new member couldn't join the board until sometime this winter and, since the term is about to expire, would have to run for election again in May.
" Which is another reason why the Selectmen figured, 'Hey, let's skip it,' " she said.
But this didn't deter Valerie Bird and the people who signed the petition.
"A lot of people [who signed the petition] didn't even realize we weren't going to have a special election," Bird said. "Some think there should be a town bylaw saying you have to have [a special election] after someone resigns from the board."
She said many of the petition's signers said they wanted Charles Sturtevant - a former selectmen of 27 years - to run again.
Though he signed the petition, Sturtevant said he did not plan to run.
"It's not a good time right now to get back on the board," he said.
Kirchner resigned amid a dispute between her and the other two members over the appointment of the town fire chief. Scott Eastwood and Sturtevant were the two candidates, and Sturtevant had the backing of the Firefighter's Association.
However, Fusini and Koczela outnumbered Kirchner by casting votes for Eastwood.