New poll site for Pebble residents

County officials and residents of the Pebble community gather in the kitchen building of the Pebble Community Center, which will now serve as the new polling site for the community. From l-r: Winston County Commissioner David Cummings, Pebble resident Earl Nicholson, Winston County Probate Judge Sheila Moore, resident and Pebble Community Center board member Carla Waldrep and Margaret Crane.

PEBBLE   - A request from residents in the Pebble area to relocate their polling site from the Pebble Volunteer Fire Department to the Pebble Community Center over a year ago is just now coming to fruition after the Winston County Commission’s vote in their regular meeting Monday, Feb. 10.
Commissioner David Cummings explained he had been approached by residents of the Pebble area about the desire to relocate their polling site to the Pebble Community  Center.
The commission’s vote took place just three weeks from the primary elections set for Tuesday, March 3, allowing only  a short amount of time to notify voters, as well as send out updated voter registration cards for the approximate 326 voters who cast ballots at Precinct 6 in the Pebble area, election officials stated.
“Unfortunately, eight out of 10 times, it’s raining and cold when we have these early spring elections,” Cummings said. “The weather is a factor in getting people out to vote.”
Several factors at the fire department were listed by residents behind their request to relocate the polling site, officials said.
“They would get wet getting in and out (at the fire station),” said Cummings.
The community center has a canopy under which residents can walk in and out when voting at the kitchen building on the grounds of the Pebble Community Center, he added.
“There was a big concern accessing in and out,” said Cummings.
“I want to thank the fire department for letting us vote there for so many years and I want to thank the community center for allowing us to move voting there,”  Cummings added.
The community center also offers a larger parking area, according to Cummings.
Cummings said he was approached by residents asking about relocating the polling site two years ago during the last election. He stressed the move was nothing personal against the fire department.
Pebble Fire Chief Steve Smith said he knew of the desire to move the polling site over the past year.
“They came to me over a year ago that they were going to move it,” Smith said. “They didn’t tell me why. They just said they were going to move it.”
Smith said the fire station does have heating and cooling, but the air conditioning was not working one time at the fire station.
“If they want to use it, it’s always been there for them to use,” Smith added.
Since the commission’s vote to relocate the site occurred on Feb. 10,  the Winston County Board of Registrars started mailing out notices that day to voters announcing the precinct location change, election officials said. Also, signs are being made that will be placed at the fire station notifying voters of the move to the nearby community center, where “Vote Here” signs will also be placed, officials added.
“We’re moving half a mile,” Cummings stated. “If people (go to the fire station) to vote, they can read the sign and go another half a mile. It’s not out of the way. It’s just down the road.
“It will be easier access at the community center,” Cummings continued. “It’s pavement going in there. It’s not in the rock and mud. It’s gravel at the fire department, where it’s paved roads at the community center. That’s the main thing, access for the handicapped.”
Winston County Commission Chairman Roger Hayes noted the vote to change the polling site was short notice before the election, but it now has been officially done.
“I thought it was already done,” Hayes said. “I was kind of surprised that it has not already been done.
“We want to go with what the people want and what they request of us in that area,” Hayes said. “They requested it, and if we can do it, why not do it? We did, and that is what we needed to do.
“We’re here to help people and not be a hindrance to them,” Hayes continued. “A group of people in that area got together and requested that be done for various reasons--better facilities, better bathrooms, air conditioning.
Earl Nicholson, a Pebble resident all of his life, as well as a member of the Pebble Fire Department for 35 years, has voted for years at the  fire station.
“I knew they didn’t have air conditioning in this hot weather,” Nicholson said. “When it was hot, it was hot.”
When asked about relocating the polling site to the Pebble Community Center, Nicholson said he would help any way he could.
“I had been up (at the fire station), and they didn’t have any air,” noted Pebble resident Margaret Crane. They would have to leave the doors open.”
When the community residents requested the polling site be moved, the Pebble Community Center board had to approve the relocation to that facility before it could go before the commission for the official vote.
“We had a meeting and discussed it,” noted Carla Waldrep, board member. “We are welcoming this change because this is for the community.
“I do believe there is much more parking space here. It’s a convenient location.  Despite any issues that there were, if any, if this is feasible for the community, we welcome that change,” Waldrep pointed out.
“As far as any of us who are affiliated with the community center, it has nothing to do with either location,”  Waldrep pointed out. “It has to do with what is more convenient and feasible.”
“For one thing, we have a better parking place,” Nicholson said. “We don’t block the fire trucks in.
“I am for the fire department. They (polling workers) just wanted another location. We’ve got it moved,” Nicholson added.
The actual polling site at the community center will be the separate building where the  kitchen is located beside the main community center building.
The room can be accessed by a canopy-covered sidewalk.  Inside the building features several tables in a main room beside the kitchen area that is heated and cooled--creating  an ideal place for residents to vote, according to members of the community.
Winston County Probate Judge Sheila Moore said notices had to out to the poll workers by Wednesday, Feb. 12, about the change in polling site.
Moore said the subject of changing polling sites was not brought to her attention until Friday, Feb. 7. She added that she had been aware of complaints about the polling site at the fire station.
“I know at one time they didn’t have heat,” Moore said. “The have just had issues with the facility.
“I am not saying anything bad about the fire station,” Moore continued. “It has been brought to my attention numerous times not just by a few of the residents, but by the poll workers that the facility was run down.
“It’s not up to me to find places for people to vote. It’s up to the community,” Moore stressed. “The community has to be the one that finds their voting place. If they want to have a precinct, they have to have a voting place there.  So however they want to work that is up to them.”
The stipulations for a precinct is it must be handicap accessible, have electric outlets for connecting the voting machines, and overall accessibility for the public on election days, Moore explained.
“It was my understanding that they were going to try to get it moved, but it just didn’t get implemented,” Moore stated.
“When I was approached about it being moved,  I told them it had to be passed through the county commission,” she added.
The announcement came that the commission was planning on approving the voting site change on Friday, Feb. 7, meaning the March 3 ,primary was only three weeks away. The polling lists had already been printed in the Alabamian, as well as a list of Winston County’s voting precincts when the announcement came to Moore’s attention.
In situations, with such short notice before an election, the site can be changed by an approval by the county commission on an emergency basis, Moore explained.
“We’re good on this. At least it wasn’t a week before, the day before an election,” Moore pointed out.
“Notices are going out from the board of registrars to the voters. They passed it through the commission meeting. That was the first step, getting everybody notification that it’s going to be moved,” Moore added.


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