Clerk's office certifies petitions

By David Fenker

NORTH MANCHESTER -- In less than one week, North Manchester area residents have gathered more than enough signatures to put a controversial project to referendum this November.

Wabash County Clerk Elaine Martin confirmed on Tuesday, June 19, that 535 registered voters signed petitions requesting that Manchester Community Schools' proposed construction project, which is projected to cost around $26 million after interest. The project includes safety renovations at all four MCS facilities, an advanced manufacturing lab, a new roof at Manchester Administration Office, turf for the Manchester Jr.-Sr. High School football field, and a roughly $15 million Squire Fieldhouse, to be built between MAO and MJSHS.

While most community and school board members approve of the safety renovations and advanced manufacturing lab, the fieldhouse is a point of contention for all.

The school board voted in early June to proceed with the project, triggering a 30-day window for the community to gather signatures to put the project to referendum.

Indiana law regarding the referendum requires only 525 signatures. Martin said that more than the verified 535 came in, but will not be counted.

Martin said that this is the first time her office has ever handled this sort of request.

“This doesn't happen all that often,” she said. “When an entity like the school asks us for petitions, we have to get the paperwork from the state board of accounts.”

Next, MCS filled out the forms with the question for the petition and returned them to the clerk's office.

Martin said that MCS attorney Mark Frantz picked up the petitions to disburse to the public.

“He knew that there were quite a few people in the North Manchester area that were wanting to start obtaining the signatures, so he took 20 sets of petitions with him.”

According to Frantz, the school corporation still has a long way to go before the question is on this November's ballot.
Now that the clerk’s office has confirmed the number of registered voters that they have certified, the school must submit the actual question to appear on the ballot to the county election board, who must approve it.

“The question is then submitted to the Department of Local Government Finance for their review and either approval or modification,” he said. “If we can get all of that done, the question should be on the ballot for November.”

The deadline for that process is noon Aug. 1.

“The time constraints that we were afraid of have passed, I think, just because Dave Terflinger did an amazing job getting over 525 signatures in a very quick time period,” Frantz said, “and the … county voter registration office did an amazing job counting all of those signatures, verifying them, in a very short amount of time.
“It's still not a guarantee that we'll make it to the November ballot, but we are in a much better position to get on it than I think we were when we started the process.”

Martin noted that Deputy Clerk Teresa Ehret, who is in charge of elections and voter registration, verified the signatures.
“I have an aweseme deputy clerk … who gets a project in hand and won't stop until it's done,” Martin said of the relative speed of the certification process. “She was able to put some other things aside and give it 100 percent attention today. She's extremely good at her job, so she went through all of those.

Posted on 2018 Jun 26