After a petition presented to the Manchester City Council at its last meeting dashed any hopes of using a reverse referendum to fund a new $2.6 million city shop on the east side of town, the council has decided to put the project on hold.
The petition that garnered more than 200 signatures from Manchester voters effectively forces the council to get approval from the public should it wish to secure funding for the project.
At Monday’s meeting, city staff told the council they had three options: drop the project, prepare paperwork to have the issue placed on the Nov. 5 ballot or modify the plan/loan amount and possibly hold a special election in either March or September 2020.
Drawing from lessons learned from the Delaware County Supervisor’s fight to secure funding for a new jail facility, the Council has opted not to place the issue on the Nov. 5 ballot and instead wait until next year, giving themselves time to educate the public about the issues surrounding the city shop.
Councilmember Mary Ann Poynor said, especially considering that the bond referendum would take a supermajority of 60% to pass, she believes the council needs to take its time to make a case.
“I feel like we need to do a lot of explaining, a lot of showing people what we have and why we need something different,” Poynor said. “I don’t want to drop the project and I don’t think we can drop the project — we have to have something.”
Councilmember Tanya Bradley agreed, saying given the rapidly approaching Nov. 5 date, she thinks the council doesn’t have enough time to get facts and figures into the public sphere and that is a recipe for failure.
“I do not foresee it passing because there isn’t enough information out there,” Bradley said.
As an illustration to that point, Mayor Milt Kramer said he had spoken with several people who signed the petition that had never been to the current city shop or even know where it is located.
Even though the current city shop is in rough shape, Councilmember Dean Sherman said he felt a lot of the petition signers didn’t like the project price tag for a new building or how it would impact the city’s debt, adding the council could pare the scope of the project down while more of Manchester’s debt is being paid off.
City Manager Tim Vick said the city shop has been discussed for several years, but he said the city now needs to focus on showing the public exactly why something needs to be done to the shop and what factors were considered in building new in a new location vs tearing down and starting over where the shop currently sits.
“We need to be able to show our work to the public, hold some public meetings and talk about this — because again, it’s education for the public as for why we are doing what we are doing,” Vick said. “That’s what the county did and that is why they were successful.”