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Vote coming concerning pot in Petersburg


Petitioners desiring a vote on whether or not the borough should prohibit the cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana met their deadline last week and gathered enough signatures to put the question to a vote. Over 430 names have been verified after being turned into the borough last Friday, which is well over the required 104 signatures petitioners needed.

The issue will appear on a fall ballot, but now comes the task of waiting to see whether it’s during the regular election or a special election. The petition missed the deadline for the regular election ballot, but the Petersburg Borough Assembly has the power to put it on the ballot. If not, there would be a special election.

Grant Trask, who was out gathering signatures, felt getting as many signatures as possible in a week would offer a better sampling of voters. Last year’s regular election only produced a total of 416 voters. Trask said the number of people who signed his copy of the petition equaled the number of people who said they did not want to sign.

“I guess you could say it’s representative of the controversy we have here,” he said. “Some people don’t even want to vote about it.”

Trask put in “a strong effort” to collect signatures, and manned a marijuana initiative table in front of Hammer and Wikan Hardware, on July 4, despite the tragic car crash that happened early that day. Trask said the table attracted quite a bit of attention resulting in a range of interested people stopping by.

“Most all of the discussions were civil and productive,” he said. “There was disagreement and agreement, but it was a very good exercise of democracy.”

Trask said no matter what the result of the vote, it is important for voters to have the question before them. Those sentiments are echoed by Robert “Doc” Lopez, who was the alternate on the initiative and referendum that brought the petition forward.

“At the end of the day we want to be able to say, ‘Yes, we decided this collectively as the population of the Petersburg Borough,’” Lopez said.

The question now, for Lopez and many others, is how the assembly will respond, and which ballot the question will appear on. Either way, the people of Petersburg will have an opportunity to have their voice heard, which is what many petitioners wanted, he said.

According to borough clerk Debra Thompson, the Assembly will consider an ordinance for giving voters the opportunity to opt out of having marijuana facilities in the borough. The first reading will take place at the assembly’s next meeting on July 18, with subsequent second and third readings to follow on Aug. 1 and Aug. 15.

If the assembly passes the resolution to place the question on the regular municipal election ballot it will appear before voters on Oct. 4. If the resolution fails to pass through the assembly, there will be a special election.

Special elections can be costly, due to absentee voter supplies, including envelopes and sleeves. There is also absentee ballot postage, cost of printing and shipping the ballot itself, among other costs to consider. Thompson estimates a special election could end up costing between $6,000 and $10,000.

Thompson said the last special election held in Petersburg was Dec. 7, 2004. The election helped to decide multiple issues including whether or not to issue General Obligation Bonds for the New Aquatic Center with 570 voting “Yes” and 246 voting “No.” There were also two school issues on the ballot. The first was for the Vocational Building Expansion with 655 voting “Yes” and 157 voting “No” and the Kitchen/ Lunchroom Renovations with 368 voting “Yes” and 444 voting “No.”

The cost of the election could not be determined because it took place so long ago, according to Thompson.

Two local businesses are seeking a license from the state to establish a retail store, with one being out the road 10 miles and the other in downtown Petersburg.


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