EARLVILLE – The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a petition submitted by Village of Earlville residents to hold a vote on a proposed $3.4 million water project stands.
After much debate, it was decided that the proposed water project would go up for a public vote. In August, the Village Board decided to move forward with the water project without automatically holding a public vote. At the time, they said the decision was made to ensure the village would get the funding package offered by USDA. The package included a $500,000 grant and low-interest loan to pay the remainder of the balance at an interest rate of 2.75 percent over a 38-year period.
The village entered a period of permissive referendum after passing a resolution authorizing the issuance of bonds for the capital water improvement project. The permissive referendum gave village residents 30 days to submit a petition signed by 20 percent of registered voters in order to see the project go up for a public vote.
The petition was submitted with 134 signatures, more than the required 20 percent, but within days, the village also received a letter citing several procedural objections to the petition. The letter and the petition were submitted to the Supreme Court, where a judge ruled in favor of the petition.
“At this point, the village board needs to put this up for a public vote,” said Village Mayor Toni Campbell. Due to mandated regulations, the vote cannot be held until January. Campbell said she had spoken to a representative at USDA, and while she was assured that they could hold the funding until after the vote, she could not guarantee that the interest rate will remain at 2.75 percent.
One of the three people who circulated the petition, Mitch Mullenax, responded to the possibility of the increased interest rate after the meeting. “I want to make sure the trustees know, if the interest rate changes, it’s not because of the petition. If they had kept their word and put the project up for a vote, this would already have gone through. If the petition is their scapegoat, they’re forgetting their public promise to people. If it increases, that’s a consequence of not keeping your word,” Mullenax said...