Miami election board hires outside firm over community group

When the May 2 primary rolls around, the West Milton Rotary Club won’t be delivering voting machines for the Miami County Board of Elections as a club fundraiser for the first time in a decade.

The club was first hired by an election board in 2006 to deliver and retrieve the county’s new touch screen voting machines purchased in mid-2005.

The board recently received quotes for the machine delivery and pick up for the May primary from the Rotary and Lewis & Michael moving, a company that also handles the voting machines in Montgomery County.

Election board members said Monday, March 27, in voting to contract with Lewis & Michael that they prefer spending money locally first but thought the $1,200 difference in quotes went beyond what they could allow.

Elections Director Bev Kendall said the elections staff decided to seek quotes after talking with election officials in other counties, including Montgomery. “We hadn’t taken quotes in the past. We always worked with Rotary,” Kendall said, adding that, because of possible cost savings, they thought it would be appropriate to obtain quotes.

The Rotary quote was $3,480 to handle 160 machines for the election in which not all polling places in the county will be open because of lack of ballot issues or races. The Lewis & Michael quote was for $2,330.

Board member Audrey Gillespie said she would have proposed using the county-based organization versus one out of county had the quotes been closer. “When we are talking about almost $1,200 difference, that is a chunk of change,” she said.

Board Chairman Dave Fisher agreed. The difference was not a lot of money, but it is taxpayer money and the elections office will be looking at other expenses for equipment and other needs down the road, he said.

Board member Ryan King asked Kendall if she had confidence in both quotes. Kendall said she did.

The vote was 3-0.

Bob Johnston of the West Milton Rotary attended the board meeting but did not comment to the board.

Afterward, Johnston said the voting machines project was a “great” fundraiser for the organization, which would involve some 30 Rotarians in renting trucks and delivering and then picking up the machines after Election Day.

The group had its system in place, knowing the ins and outs and personal contacts at each voting location across the county, he said.

“It is a shame to have to send the money to Montgomery County. The board needs to do what it needs to do,” Johnston said of the contract vote, adding, “There is no way we can sell enough lemon shake ups to make up for this (lost income).”

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