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Date remains uncertain for Emmitsburg annexation vote

Chris Patterson

(4/1)  residents will vote for or against the annexation of more than 20 acres into town -- already approved by the town's board of commissioners -- but the mayor has not yet decided when that vote will take place.

On March 25, Mayor Jim Hoover accepted 261 of the 334 signatures submitted in a petition to bring the annexation to a referendum vote.

Hoover said the group circulating the petition, Citizens Organized to Preserve Emmitsburg (COPE), only needed 208 signatures to meet the required signatures from 20 percent of the town's registered voters.

COPE President Bill O'Neil wrote in an e-mail to The Gazette that though sufficient signatures were accepted to bring the annexation to a vote, the organization is upset because 15 of the discarded signatures should have been accepted.

In particular, O'Neil is concerned about nine names that were discarded for what he said were unknown reasons. He and COPE Vice President Harold Craig are planning to meet with Hoover to find out why certain names were disallowed.

At a COPE meeting Tuesday night, members expressed concern about the discarded signatures. Most were particularly upset about disallowing names of some of the sisters at The Provincial House, a Catholic retirement home, on South Seton Avenue.

"What concerns me is the nitpicking that's going on with the mayor when it's obvious in some of these cases when people choose to sign their name in a particular way and do that all the time, but the way they sign their name doesn't match with their name on the voter registration," resident Catherine Forrence said.

Forrence said one person on the list signed her first name as "Katie" instead of Kathleen and her name was disallowed. What didn't make sense to Forrence was that her own name was accepted even though she said she signed the petition as "C. Forrence."

Town clerk Donna Thompson said the town didn't necessarily keep records of why each name was rejected, but noted more than 50 signatures from sisters at The Provincial House were accepted. And many signatures were denied because they just did not match or they could not make the assumption that the nickname was the person on the voter list.

COPE members were also concerned about the possibility of the town holding a separate vote on the annexation. The election for two town commissioner slots will be held April 27, and Hoover said he would like to hold the annexation vote on that date.

The decision regarding when to hold the annexation vote is his to make, and he has not yet decided. He said he hopes to make the decision by Monday, the day of the next town meeting.

Hoover said the delay in determining the date for the vote is because the owner of the property for annexation, Josh Bollinger, has requested a hearing to discuss one of the conditions of the annexation.

Bollinger wants to discuss one of the annexation conditions requiring that he not begin construction until the town's sewer plant stays within its permitted capacity for 180 consecutive days, Hoover said.

The commissioners voted to hear Bollinger's request at 7 p.m. in the town hall on April 19, the latest day a decision could be made and still hold the referendum at the April 27 election, Hoover said.

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