MALTA: Petition draws fire

A petition signed by more than 400 Malta residents calling for a public referendum on the $6 million planned expansion of the town's community center will be challenged by the town following a narrow vote dividing council members and the supervisor.

During an emotionally charged special meeting Monday morning, Oct. 15, board members were clearly torn about how to toe the line faced by elected officials across town lines in every municipality: being open to input from residents late in the game, and being elected to make sound fiscal decisions without undue delays.

This board has been put in a no-win position, said Audrey Ball, who as the town's parks and recreation director has been involved in the physical and financial planning for the expansion for the past three years. "It's unfortunate that a great community project that should bring together this town still has politics come into play; that's a great disservice. I think to some point this board has been set up."

The petitions were circulated after the board voted to expend funds collected in a capital account derived from fees attached to new developments in town of $1,000 per unit. Board members said the account will completely cover the costs of building and maintaining the upgrades, which would include a gymnasium and more space for civic and social meetings and enrichment classes. Board members, and several people in attendance at the early morning meeting, had both technical and philosophical questions about the petitions and how they were collected.

Town attorney Tom Peterson said there were flaws in the mechanics of the petitions, including inaccuracies in some of the wording at the top of the sheets, and the manner in which they were presented to the Saratoga County Board of Elections.

But deeper still were the questions of intent and hidden agendas for those gathering signatures, which more than one member of the public said were collected knowingly using misleading claims.

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