Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

January 29, 2013

Fairview tax opponents agree to a new petition

CATLETTSBURG — Supporters and opponents of a utilities tax in the Fairview school district cut short a court fight Monday when opponents agreed to circulate a new petition to bring the issue to a vote.

The new petition, which will replace the one at the center of the court case, will use slightly different language that clarifies that signers are in favor of a recall election.

The five people making up the committee that circulated the original petition all agreed to the solution, and so did members of the school board, which had filed a lawsuit against the committee trying to halt the election.

Boyd Circuit Judge C. David Hagerman proposed the solution during a hearing to discuss the board’s request for an injunction that would have halted the election.

He pointed out that the committee had collected more than twice as many signatures as legally required to trigger the election, had done so in three days, and had ample time to launch and conduct another drive.

The original petition was phrased as a yes or no question, and Hagerman suggested some signers could have interpreted it as asking if they opposed the election.

He suggested different phrasing to clarify that signers support the recall election.

“I see this as an opportunity to bring the two sides together on this issue,” he said.

Following a brief huddle, committee members signaled their agreement and John Vincent, the board’s attorney, said the board also would concur.

“We’re very fine with this,” said Melvin “Joe” Weis, a member of the committee. “We think the judge is upholding the right of the people to vote and that’s what we were interested in.”

The board “is perfectly satisfied,” Vincent said. “The judge addressed their concerns so the process should continue.”

The petitions seek to recall the 3 percent tax on utilities the board enacted in December. The tax would be collected on gas, water, electric, sewer, telephone, satellite and cable bills.

The board has said it wants the tax to finance a major refurbishment of the high school, including a middle-school wing.

Two previous attempts to enact a utilities tax in Fairview were rebuffed by voters in 2005 and 2007.

Weis said the committee was bound for county clerk Debbie Jones’ office after the hearing and would be making the rounds of Westwood neighborhoods today.

If the committee succeeds in gathering sufficient signatures on the second petition, the election will be Feb. 19 as previously scheduled, Jones said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

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