Mansfield Town Council members remained divided Monday night as to when to hold a referendum on the town's school building project.
After a lengthy discussion in which many council members were against putting the issue on the November ballot, the council ultimately decided to hold a special meeting in September to decide.
Mansfield Mayor Elizabeth Paterson said the council would look to the for guidance.
"The next four meetings are going to be at schools," Paterson said. "I would presume that we will hear from more parents than we’ve heard from so far and that will give us a more balanced equation, so that if we have a special meeting on the sixth, we can decide what path we’re going to take, and I think it’s important that we continue to discuss it," she said.
Councilman William Ryan made a point to say he was against a November referendum.
"The students who come out in droves to vote for the president should not be voting on our local issue," Ryan said. "If they really want to do that, they can come out on the day we hold it, which I hope will not be Election Day,” he said.
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Council member Denise Keane supported Ryan's notion. "The students will come out in droves," Keane said of Election Day, "but they have no vested interest in our school system or our tax base,” she said.
Councilman Chris Paulhus added that in his experience, students had come out of the polls saying they voted "yes" on a town issue, even though they did not understand what exactly they said "yes" to.
“It’s kind of disturbing to hear that when you’re out there for Election Day,” he said.
Councilman Peter Kochenburger spoke out Monday in favor of a November referendum, saying it provided the best opportunity for voter turnout and argued that students had as much right to vote on the issue as any resident in town.
"To suppress a certain class of voters - students - is absolutely wrong and I think if we do it - and maybe we will - I think in five or 10 years we'll frankly be ashamed of it." Kochenburger said. “If you are a resident, you are entitled to vote. And we can disagree with that, although we as a town get significant financial, never mind other benefits from the fact that we have students who are considered residents,” Kochenburger said. “They are residents of this town as deemed by the state of Connecticut," he said.
Councilman Paul Shapiro said that while he initially thought it best to support a November referendum, he needed more time to mull it over, and planned to attend the remaining informational sessions to get a better idea of what the public wants in terms of a referendum date.
“I have some more listening to do,” Shapiro said.
The special town council meeting will be held on September 6 at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Audrey P. Beck Municipal Building.