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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Newton North referendum moves forward

NEWTON

The voters will have their say.

A referendum on the controversial site plan for a new Newton North High School will go to a ballot after the Board of Aldermen voted 16 to 8 last night against rescinding their earlier vote to approve it.

A special election on the site plan could come by Jan. 23.

What it all means, however, is far from clear, city officials said. City Solicitor Daniel Funk, for example, said that even if voters give a thumbs down to the site plan, the aldermen could then meet and simply approve exactly the same drawing again.

Ward 2 Alderman Stephen Linsky questioned whether the Law Department’s interpretation was correct.

“I’m not so sure I agree with they conclusions they came up with,” said Linsky, who is an attorney.

Supporters of the original site plan last night pledged to market its merits during the three months leading up to the election. They argued that pushing for a positive vote at the polls was the quickest way to get the project back on track.

“I will work as hard as humanly possible to convince the citizens we have made the right decision in their behalf,” said Sydra Schnipper, alderman at large from Ward 7.

Linsky and other board members also said it would be difficult to know how to read the tea leaves of the election, even after the results are in. Voters could say no for any number of reasons, they said, including the overall cost of the project, estimated at from $140 million to $165 million.

Paul Coletti, alderman at large from Ward 5, predicted that the ballot question on the site plan could be followed by another specifically referendum addressing the price tag and what he sees as the mayor’s faulty plan to pay for it. Mayor David B. Cohen has called for a financing plan that would use revenue from new growth, instead of a tax override or debt exclusion.

“Wait until you see the delay that’s going to happen in the future,” Coletti said.

A firm date for the election has not yet been set.

-- Connie Paige

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