MALTA: Petition draws fire

"I totally support this expansion and this snag is unfortunate," said Demetria Koninis, a Malta resident. "They came at night to my door with the petition without identification and told me my taxes would go up if I didn't help stop this project. It was not explained fully, and I don't care whose door you go to, if you mention higher taxes, they'll sign anything to oppose it. They don't care what they tell people to get them to sign it, and I say shame on them."

"I went to my neighbors and asked if they signed it knowingly, and they weren't given the correct information, so their signatures aren't even valid," said resident Karen Adriance. "It was dark; you couldn't even read the page. People stood in McDonald's and asked for signatures. The board wouldn't put the town in jeopardy, and people should know that."

But Linda Bablin, a town resident who said she collected at least half the signatures on the petition, disagreed with the other residents.

"I explained it fully," said Bablin. "Yes, the board put work into it, but there are very few people who even knew about it. Less than 10 people out of my 223 signatures supported the expansion. I never said taxes would go up. I don't really care one way or another but the public needs to have a vote. That's democracy."

As a further wrench in the works, the town could stand to pay as much as 10 percent more with every annual delay in the construction work, due to rising materials costs and missing the ideal times for outdoor work. That could mean putting off the project until more funds can be added to the capital account from fees to new developers.

If the board accepted the petition, the final say in going ahead with the community center expansion would rest in the hands of voters. By law, the public referendum would be set 60 to 75 days from the date of the petition's filing, which would put on the calendar around Dec. 11. This timing also concerned some board members, who said during the December holidays most people wouldn't bother to go out and vote unless they were strongly against the project.

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