FORT SHAWNEE — Promoters of a vote to dissolve Fort Shawnee weren’t taking any chances. They presented their petition to put dissolution on the Nov. 6 ballot even before Monday’s Village Council meeting got started.
“That way, the council president couldn’t rule us out of order and refuse to accept it,” said Craig Bradford, an organizer of the pro-dissolution group.
Bradford couldn’t say exactly how many signatures his group collected, but the number easily surpasses the minimum 507 they need to place the question on the ballot.
“The committee was counting off signatures up to the final minute,” Bradford said. “We had people driving up and dropping off petitions, too.”
Also on the Nov. 6 ballot will be a property tax levy of 3.25 mills, a centerpiece of Mayor Pete Mariotti’s plan to return the financially distressed village to solvency by 2014.
Essentially, the vote comes down to two choices: either support the tax increase and stabilize the village; or, dissolve the village’s charter and become part of Shawnee Township.
Under questioning by village resident Boyd Rader, every council member in attendance said they would prefer to keep the village going. Councilman Ron Hesseling was absent. Hesseling has been absent during recent meetings.
Doug Harris, the village council president, confirmed later Monday he accepted the petition signatures before the start of the meeting.
“I signed a receipt for them, we made a copy for ourselves,” Harris said. “We’ll take these to the Election Board, and we’ll review all the petitions and signatures.”
The village has 10 days to review and certify the petitions, according to a legal opinion issued by Allen County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Gregory M. Antalis that was confirmed by County Elections Director Ken Terry.
While Wednesday is the deadline for municipalities and school districts to place questions on the fall ballot, petitions have a slightly different set of rules and deadlines, Terry said.
The Board of Elections must receive the village’s certification by 4 p.m. of the 75th day before the date of the election, Terry said. Allowing the village 10 days to review the petitions, that still slips in under the deadline, he said.
Bradford said his group also helped sign up unregistered voters, since the petition signers had to be registered voters and residents of Forth Shawnee. He said more than 50 people filled out registration forms.
While the results of the petition are non-binding, a negative vote would be detrimental to keeping the village in operation.