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Malta says yes to community center expansion

Sausville pointed out the town's recently updated five-year capital plan stipulates the entire costs, including debt reduction, operating and maintenance costs, can be funded from reserves, savings and income from dependable future revenue sources such as sales tax and mortgage taxes.

The project hit another snag when a petition was circulated earlier this fall by residents calling for the public referendum to allow the board to spend the funds for the expansion project. Nearly 450 town residents signed the petition, which the board then challenged, sending it to county courts for a decision. The courts, however, required the board to honor the public request for a vote, and town attorneys scrambled to set up the vote in compliance with stringent special referendum laws.

Town board members continuously stressed if the project wasn't approved, the delays would bring significant cost increases, estimated at as much as 10 percent more for the rising materials costs and missing the ideal season for outdoor work.

Audrey Ball, the town's parks and recreation director, patiently promoted the project for months, urging residents to look at the facts and figures rather than turning the issue into a political tug-of-war by questioning the board's authority.

Thursday morning, Ball said the vote was not only a sign of support for the project, but also a show of support for elected officials.

"It's good to see the community has faith in the town government," said Ball.

Ball said she had her fingers crossed throughout the stormy day Thursday, and was prepared for the outcome to go the other way.

"I was surprised it passed, because these kinds of special votes are very hard, it's a tough time of year, and then there was the weather all working against us," said Ball. "I really thank everyone who went out to vote. For us, now the real work begins, but this is the fun part."

Sausville said project design will be next on the docket, with the expansion likely to go out to bid later this winter, and bid openings in the spring.

"We'll have groundbreaking this summer, and look forward to ribbon-cutting by late spring, 2009," said Sausville.

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