Each of the 447 Malta residents that signed a petition to have the David R. Meager Community Center $6 million expansion project put to public vote received a letter dated Oct. 15 that their signatures are now being challenged in by the town board.
Signed by town attorney Thomas Peterson, the letter was required by the Saratoga County Supreme Court, and Peterson said he has no way of knowing how the court will conduct its hearing, slated for Friday, Nov. 2.
This is a very unusual proceeding, so there could be a number of scenarios, said Peterson.
The letter states that the petitioners have the right to attend the court hearing, and the court may accept information from them, but they are not required to attend.
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.
A petition was circulated by residents calling for a public referendum on spending the funds on the expansion project. On Monday, Oct. 15, during a special meeting, the town board wrestled with honoring the petition and putting the project to vote, or moving ahead to avoid costly construction delays. 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.
In order to move ahead with the plans, the board had to challenge the citizens' petition. After much discussion, the town board split its individual votes, with Gerald Winters, Sue Daley-Nolen and Cliff Lange voting to challenge the petition to put the project to a public referendum. Supervisor Paul Sausville and council member Donna Gizzi voted against challenging the petition.