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Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Citing referendum uproar, Newton aldermen delay vote

NEWTON

The city's aldermen last night put off until November a decision on whether to spend $2.6 million on further architectural drawings for a new Newton North High School.

Ward 7 Alderman-at-large Sydra Schnipper made the motion, which passed unanimously with no discussion. Schnipper, who has shepherded the school project through the board, explained in introducing her motion that “we should absolutely postpone” the vote because of a petition campaign challenging the aldermen’s previous approval of site plans for the school.

The city’s Election Commission, which initially ruled that the campaign had not collected enough signatures of eligible voters, is reconsidering its decision tomorrow. Independent counts by Globe West, another local media outlet, and referendum backers found that the city had undercounted by hundreds of signatures.

Mayor David B. Cohen yesterday suspended the city's elections chief and named an interim replacement. He also said it was likely the petitioners had gained sufficient signatures and launched an investigation into why they were miscounted.

If successful, the petition drive could lead to a vote at the ballot box over the site plan.

-- Connie Paige

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