Published July 20. 2012 4:00AM
Groton - The Poquonnock Bridge Fire District will hold a special meeting Aug. 1 during which taxpayers will vote on whether or not to restructure the district's board of directors.
The vote would be to expand the five-member board to nine.
Former district President Alan Ackley originally called for the special meeting and vote in late June, more than a month after he had been voted out of office but just five days before he was to relinquish the position to new president Christopher Clark.
The timing of his effort to expand the board coincided with his effort to start a process that would end with the town assuming control of the district's fire department. In a June 5 letter, Ackley said the Poquonnock Bridge board wanted to fold the department into town operations, effectively converting the Poquonnock Bridge department into what would become the town fire department.
There currently is no Groton Town fire department.
Repeated messages left for Ackley at Ackley's Package Store, which is the telephone number he had provided, were not returned.
Clark said Thursday that he believed that Ackley's effort to expand the board would allow Ackley and his former vice president, Peter Legnos, to be voted back on. Clark has expressed no interest in consolidating the department, a process that would take two or three years and would require a referendum by Poquonnock Bridge residents as well as a townwide vote.
"Of course I can't prove it, but it seems like they want to make the board larger so they can have the numbers to vote to consolidate," Clark said. "They tried to do it before they left office. Now they have started a petition and gathered enough signatures to force a vote."
Last week, during a board meeting, Poquonnock Bridge resident and taxpayer Gale Goode presented a "Voter Petition for a Special Meeting" that contained 24 valid signatures.
She said she submitted the petition because she believes more members on the board would provide better representation of the residents of the district. She declined further comment. Board member Thomas Santacroce also declined to comment Thursday.
The language of Goode's petition is identical to the legal notice Ackley posted last month. It calls for a nine-member board with four officers.
If the changes are approved, the board would include a president, vice president and treasurer, all of whom would be board members. A clerk, the fourth officer, would not be required to be a board member. Currently, all four officers are voting members of the five-person board.
If the Aug. 1 vote passes, the current five members would carry out their one-year terms, ending June 30, 2013. Four additional board members would take office Aug. 1.
Next year, at the district's's annual meting, voters would elect three board members for three-year terms, three for two-year terms and three to serve a single year. Thereafter, three board members would be elected annually for three-year terms.
The Aug. 1 meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the Groton Senior Center.