A group that calls itself New Canaan Citizens for Responsible Spending is circulating a petition to call for a referendum to challenge a $4 million appropriation and bond resolution that would pay for paving roads, and could be spent on installing new .
The Town Council is scheduled to vote on whether or not to approve the sidewalks at its meeting Wednesday night. The meeting will be held at 8:15 p.m. at , and is open to the public.
The petitioners filed a Notice of Intent to with the Town Clerk on March 10. On Tuesday, they filed additional paperwork to create the legal entity necessary to proceed with the petition drive.
Karen Mackle said she and Eloise Killeffer and Neele Stichnotch organized New Canaan Citizens for Responsible Spending to bring the issue of fiscal responsibility to the town's voters.
"This is bond money that really needs to be spent on our infrastructure," Mackle told Patch. "It’s not about the sidewalks. It’s about being responsible with the spending. In these economic times we need to be smart and we need to focus on what we need. And what we need is paving and repaving."
Mackle, 42, has lived in New Canaan for six years, and her husband grew up in town. She said she is not "anti-sidewalk," but she would like the town to do its due diligence before undertaking an installation.
On Tuesday morning, the Board of Selectman voted to approve a request from the Department of Public Works to enter into a contract with Cabezas DeAngelis Engineers for $25,000 for the survey and design of Main St., including the proposed installation of sidewalks.
"It's about fiscal responsibility," Mackle said. "That's how we got to the referendum."
The $4 million appropriation and bond resolution was approved on Feb. 16 by the Town Council. The formal notice of passage was posted on March 3, beginning the referendum timeline.
According to , the New Canaan Town Charter identifies three situations in which the public can call for a referendum:
- When the Town Council approves an appropriation.
- When the Town Council denies an appropriation.
- When the Town Council proposes an ordinance.
Once the Town Council posts formal notice of its action, residents have seven days to file a Notice of Intent to Petition for a Referendum. The petitioners filed their notice with Weber’s office last week. A minimum of fifty signatures was required. According to Weber, the group had well over that number.
“These are real signatures, actual live signatures where people took time to sign themselves,” Weber said. “Everything is following state statute and town charter.”
In other words, electronic "signatures" gathered over the Internet are not allowed.
Weber said the signers are all “electors,” registered to vote in New Canaan.
The approves the language on a referendum petition, and it is then run by the town’s attorney. The language on this petition reads:
“Shall the action taken by the Town Council on Feb. 16, 2011, approving a $4 million appropriation and bond resolution for the town’s road network be repealed and overruled and returned to the Board of Finance for reconsideration?”
Having qualified, the petitioners now have until April 2 to gather 627 signatures in order for the referendum to take place.
- 627 is five percent of New Canaan’s voting population.
- April 2 is 30 days from March 3, the date the Town Council formally posted notice of passage of the appropriation.
If the petitioners gather the required 627 signatures by April 2, a referendum will be called.
"Our goal is 1,000 signatures," Mackle said. "We're well on our way."
The date of a referendum would be set by the Town Council.
"A referendum shall be held not later than 30 days after the filing of such petition,” Weber told Patch.
That means the referendum would take place no later than May 2.
Weber said there would be one polling place for the referendum, and would oversee the polls. She said she expects absentee ballots would be available.
Who votes in a referendum?
“Registered voters of the town of New Canaan, and, historically, property owners who are U.S. citizens over the age of 18,” Weber said. “This does not include LLCs, corporations or trusts. However if the LLC owns a piece of property and the principals of the LLC are registered voters, they may vote.”
The cost of a referendum is between $7,000 and $8,000 according to the registrar of voters and the town clerk.
Weber said if the referendum passes, the appropriation request would go back to the for reconsideration according to the Town Charter.