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Signatures turned in

City has 10 days to certify school opponents' efforts

Posted: Sunday, February 29, 2004

The group trying to block construction of a second Juneau high school submitted enough signatures Friday to get the measure on the ballot, pending certification by the city clerk.

Petitioners submitted 2,745 signatures, said organizer and former City Manager Dave Palmer. The group lost 70 signatures after a book bag containing the signature book was stolen from an unlocked vehicle in the high school parking lot, he said. Another 15 signatures were lost when a signature gatherer's dog ate the book, Palmer said. But it didn't matter.

"I'm pretty confident they aren't going to find 300 people who aren't registered voters," Palmer said.

The group needed 2,408 registered voters to sign the petition in order to get it certified for the ballot. If the group falls short, it has 10 additional days to gather the needed signatures before final certification.

Once a petition is certified, the Juneau Assembly has 45 days within which to adopt a substantially similar ordinance or schedule a special election.

A special election, expected to cost about $35,000, is likely in mid-May. The Assembly has said it opposes efforts to block a new school.

On Monday, the Assembly introduced an ordinance similar to the group's initiative but did so for different motives. The Assembly's rejection of the ordinance in early March will allow the special election to take place early enough to give school officials time to begin site work on the new school if voters turn down the ballot measure.

Many people signed the petition because they questioned how Juneau could afford two high schools, Palmer said. Others felt two schools would divide the community.

In 1999, voters authorized $50 million for the construction of a new high school at Dimond Park, conditioned on partial state reimbursement. They also authorized $13 million to renovate Juneau-Douglas High School. In June 2003, voters authorized another $12.6 million for the new school.

The ballot measure would block spending the funds authorized in 1999 until there be at least 2,100 high school students, the district identify $1.67 million in funding for the first year of operations, and the school be sized for 1,200 students initially.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.



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