Meridian Star

May 19, 2013

More sign bond issue petitions

By Terri Ferguson Smith / tsmith@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Those calling for an election on a $14 million bond issue have amassed more signatures for petitions even though they know they have missed the deadline.

    The petitions turned in to the Chancery Clerk's Office nearly two weeks ago had a total of 1,554 names, which is more than the required 1,500 needed to call for an election. However it is not uncommon for some names to be rejected once the petitions are examined to make sure each signature is that of a registered voter in Lauderdale County.

    Even though by law the Board of Supervisors doesn't have to count the new signatures,  supporters hope the 312 additional names collected will send a message to the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, which has proposed the bond issue.

    Raymond Huffmaster is among those who are calling for an election on the bond issue. He said he took the additional petitions to the courthouse on Thursday.

    The Board of Supervisors has proposed the bond issue for city and county recreation projects as well as courthouse renovations. At the board meeting earlier this month during which petitions were presented, the board passed a resolution to hold the petitions for two weeks to allow people to remove their names if they wished and to put the petitions online so people could see if their names were on it.

    As of 5 p.m. on Friday, the number of counter-petitions — those who wished their names to be removed from the petitions — was 19, according to Chancery Clerk Carolyn Mooney.

    At a Board of Supervisors work session on Thursday, real estate broker James Harwell told the board that there are those who plan to file an appeal if the board goes ahead with  the bond issue.

    "I want to help the county get out of a little mess that I see brewing and coming down the pike," Harwell said.

    An appeal will be filed shortly in Chancery Court after the board votes on the bond issue, Harwell said.

    "The basis of the appeal will be that enough signatures were collected to call for a referendum," Harwell later explained. "The Board of Supervisors would be wise to pull it off the table until after the elections because the appeal process will delay the whole matter for up to 84 days."

    The bond issue and the related petition drive are not among items that were on the work session agenda, which typically reflects the official Monday board meeting agenda. However, Hank Florey, board president, said the matter could be brought up by any one of the five supervisors.

    Plans to start re-striping some of the county roads are under way, Florey said. The county will likely advertise for bids on contracts to stripe and re-seal, he said.

    "That will be a big plus for us," Florey said, adding that they are looking into using a thicker grade of striping material that will last for several years.

    "Every district will have striping where it is most needed," Florey said.