Petition battle for, against student center ends

For weeks, supporters and opponents of a proposed Center Grove student activity center have been collecting signatures to support their side.

Now, it’s time to count them up and see who won.

A month ago, supporters and opponents of the proposed $10 million facility, which would include four basketball courts and a six-lane indoor track, began picking up petitions from the county as part of a petition and remonstrance process. Because the facility would not cost more than $10 million, it did not have to go to a public vote, but resident Frank Rossa started the petition and remonstrance process so residents would still have a say in the project.

Today the petitions from both sides are due, and the county will begin the process of counting and verifying the names of people who signed. Under state law, the county is allowed to take up to 35 days to verify and count the signatures.

At the end of the counting period, whoever gets the most verified signatures wins. If supporters win, the project can move forward. If opponents win, the project will be put on hold and can’t be proposed again for at least a year.

As of Friday morning, 300 petition packets had been issued to the supporters, and 202 packets had been issued to the opponents, Johnson County Clerk Susie Misiniec said. Each packet has space for 25 signatures.

Both groups have more petition signing events this weekend, including some that were recently added when people asked for more events so they could make it around their work schedule, Rossa said. Last weekend, about 300 people came to the opposition group’s signing event on Saturday, he said.

“We really have been picking up steam in the last few weeks,” he said.

“Win or lose, they’ll know they had a fight.”

Both groups will need to turn all of their petitions in today. All of the petitions handed out were numbered, Misiniec said.

When people sign, they check a box for if they are signing as a registered voter or as a property owner. And that is what the county will verify in the coming days, she said.

The county voter registration office will get the petitions first and have 15 days to verify that all of the people who signed are registered voters within the Center Grove school district and that they only signed one time, Misiniec said.

Once they are finished, they will send the petitions to the county auditor’s office, who will have 10 days to verify that people who checked the box as a property owner do own property within the school district. They also will check the name of anyone who could not be verified as a registered voter to see if they can be verified as a property owner, Misiniec said.

The county voter registration office will get the petitions back and will have 10 days to tally up the total number of verified signatures for both sides and will then send that information to Center Grove schools to notify them of the winning side, Misiniec said.

“It really is a battle of the petitions, it’s whoever has the most signatures,” Misiniec said.

At a glance

Here is a look at what comes next after the petitions are turned in for and against a $10 million Center Grove student activity center:

Verifying voters: The county voter registration office has 15 days to verify the names of those who signed and checked the box as a registered voter. County employees will have to verify each of those people are a registered voter within the school district.

Verifying property owners: The list will then be sent to the county auditor, who will have 10 days to verify the names of those who signed and checked the box as a property owner. The county will verify each of those people and anyone who was not verified as a registered voter is a property owner within the school district.

Final tally: Within 10 days, the county voter registration office must count the final tally of eligible signatures. The county must then file a certificate with the government that had proposed the project.

If opponents win: The project cannot move forward and cannot be proposed again for at least a year.

If supporters win: The project can move forward.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.