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Referendum petition deadline looms
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Time is almost up for a petition to call for a referendum to allow voters to decide if they want to spend up to $10 million on McMinnville Civic Center expansion and renovation. 

Warren County Election Commission must verify the petition has been signed by 10 percent of registered voters, or approximately 630, before this week’s Friday deadline.

“I believe we have 350 signatures, but it could be more. I haven’t checked recently,” said David Rutherford, who is spearheading the petition. “I believe the deadline is Dec. 7 for me to have the petition in.”

If the campaign fails to obtain the appropriate number of signatures, city officials will be allowed to borrow up to $10 million for the Civic Center project. If the campaign prevails, a date will then be set for city residents to cast their votes and make the final decision at the polls.

Some officials are voicing discontent about the way the petition is worded and what appears to be a misleading campaign in order to achieve the desired number of signatures. 

“Half the people that are signing the petition are doing it incorrectly,” said Alderman Steve Harvey, during a meeting held Friday to discuss an indoor lap pool. “They’re thinking they are supporting what we are talking about today.” 

Specifically, a sentence in the petition which states, “We desire that obligation bonds for renovations of the McMinnville Civic Center not to exceed $10 million, without indoor pool facilities, not be issued unless the voters of the city of McMinnville approve such action in a referendum election.”

Alderman Everett Brock pointed to USA Gym owner Paige Northcutt as the most likely culprit.

“The people that did that are in this room right now,” said Brock. 

Northcutt has spoken at more than one Board of Mayor and Aldermen regular session adamant against the Civic Center renovation due to the expansion of the Wellness Center and it being in direct competition with her business.

Northcutt stated, “I did not do that.”

“It doesn’t matter who did it,” said Harvey. “There’s a large group of the public out there that don’t want to do this project without a pool and they’re winning. That’s my point.”

Brock called the petition a challenge, “We aren’t going to let you do the Civic Center because we want the swimming pool. I’d like to have both of them, but we aren’t going to get a swimming pool unless we do something with this building, regardless of what we do.” 

Brock called the petition misleading.

Northcutt stated, “I have never personally told anybody that if you sign this petition that you’ll automatically get an indoor pool. I have never said that.”

Brock believes voters won’t know what they are voting for or against because they’ve been misled. 

“I think the wording of the proposition is so disingenuous that people are not going to know how to vote or what they’re voting on,” said Brock. “The way I read it is, ‘If you don’t want the funding, you vote yes and if you do want the funding, vote yes.’ That’s wrong. When we did the Park Theater and the Blue Building referendums, we said ‘If you want to spend $2 million on Park Theater, vote yes. If you want to spend $8 million or $10 million on the Blue Building, vote yes.’ It was very straight up and straight down.”

An indoor pool, also called phase two of the Civic Center’s revitalization, is a separate project under consideration by city officials.

The petition is to allow city voters to decide by majority vote if McMinnville officials should be allowed to borrow up to $10 million on a project to renovate and expand the Civic Center.