In the wake of school safety in recent months, security in area schools have been paramount. In the Connellsville Area School District, resdidents, employees, administration and colleagues of the School District, specifically those involved with the Bullskin Township Elementary School, where voting in the District #1 takes place. It is the last school building in that district that is used for voting purposes. I can remember other district schools, in fact many of them in the city, such as the now-closed Zachariah Connell, South Side and Dunbar Borough schools and the old Industrial Arts Building (now razed) at the former Junior High West Campus in Trotter being used as voting facilities. In the 1990s, the school district carved out the school schedule for all schools to be closed on election day. About ten years ago, there was another article in the Uniontown Herald Standard that brought this issue to light, as did the Daily-Courier when it was under the leadership of its former owner. Connellsville Area School Directors said then like they say now that they wanted to stray away from schools being used as election precincts. At that time three of the district facilities were used for that purpose, Dunbar Borough Elementary and Zachariah Connell Elementary (now closed), and Bullskin Township Elementary School, thus being the lone contender.
Things have changed in the recent decade, before Dunbar Borough Closed, precincts were consolidated from four to two in Dunbar Township as the Dunbar Borough School was not conducive to voting, and the location was moved to the nearby airport at its modern terminal and consolidated with the one at Monarch Fire Department, as it too had issues. The other two precincts were separate, but essentially held in the same room, but divided by a volleyball net. One precinct was at the razed Industrial Arts Building in Trotter and the other in a residential garage in the Dickerson Run Area, as a result of the southern two being inefficient, the other two were consolidated, thus having the current two voting districts in place for the township.
A petition has been signed by not only the constituents of District #1, but also of concerned parents and guardians of the Elementary School. The school, built in 1956, has been renovated in 1998, and it confuses me as to why the facility wasn’t reconfigured for these purposes, maybe it was because the school board set the calendar each term to have those days off for voting, now that is not the case. Configuring schools for voting has happened in many area districts, like Norwin in Westmoreland County for example, where a separate entrance has been made tot he all purpose room along with separate restrooms for poll workers and others. With Bullskin in its current design you can not simply do that. While a separate entrance is provided for the election precinct, there are not accessible restrooms for poll workers. While many say put a portable toilet outside, that is simply the only issue. With the mandates of the State Government as a result of the Penn State Scandal, security at all schools across the commonwealth have been more restricted, including but not limited to ID Scanning, bag searches, etc. This could hinder the elections process and make it unique in our county as it, if the school would continue to be used, would extremely restrict the elections process in Bullskin First District.
However, moving this precinct (Bullskin #1) is a challenge for the Election Bureau as it is holds the second-highest amount of voters for the county, around 2,000. To further hamper the situation, there are limited facilities in District One where elections can be held. Several places have been checked out. One was the township building, and it was decided by the township supervisors as being too small and not having the parking necessary. Another location was the new Masonic Hall, but it was stated that there is a group that meets there the first Tuesday of the month, and they were not willing to change. The Mount Olive Evangelical Church Fellowship hall was another consideration, however, it too wasn’t conducive. The Pleasant Valley Country Club was also another consideration, however it was mulled, due to it being under renovation currently. The election bureau stated it has to be in District 1, but as Bullskin Township is a rural township, the places are limited. Personally, I can think of a few more churches and such in the township, but many of them do not meet ADA requirements, nor do they have enough parking to hold the influx of voters, poll and campaign workers. So my question is my followers, what do we do, the township, election bureau and school district are all searching to find a polling place before the next election in November. The election bureau would need to have another meeting to set a place in mid-September, but that is only three weeks away.
If you recall, we just had this scenario in the same municipality earlier this year, but in District #2, where voting took place at the Bullskin Township Central Fire Station. Fire Company Officials stated that it could no longer be held there, so other option were explored where it was narrowed down to either the grange building at the Fairgrounds in Wooddale or the Wooddale Bible Brethren Church, where a new gymnasium was constructed. It was decided in the nick of time that the church would be a more viable option. When the elections took place during the primary election, it was stated on the church’s Facebook Page that the their youth fellowship could not meet there as they planned to meet outside that night as they could not use the church. It rained , therefore they had to cancel the meeting. This being said, do you think the fairgrounds would have been a viable option to combine districts one and two. There is plenty of parking , the grounds are accessible to those with disabilities and there are comfort facilities.
In closing, let’s hope that the Election Bureau, Township Government, and School Leaders can make a healthy compromise for all parties involved in this delicate process