Whether in support or opposed to the effort, credit goes to the sports complex petition organizers for their dedication to the cause.
About 50 volunteers have been canvassing the community collecting signatures from registered voters who either oppose or simply want a chance to cast their opinion on the $11 million proposed bond bill to finance the property purchase and development of a sports complex west of the high school. The volunteers’ work includes door-to-door knocking in neighborhoods, strolling through the local farmers markets, manning booths at local businesses, various social media messages and more.
Signing this petition will simply put the property purchase and project development through public financing on the November ballot. It’s a worthwhile effort that appears to be gaining favor, and we think slowing this process is important.
There are several requirements for this volunteer group to meet before voters can weigh in through a referendum. There are approximately 45,000 registered voters in Worcester County. The petition group needed to obtain signatures from about 5% of the register voter base (approximately 2,250 citizens) by Tuesday. The group turned in about 3,000 signatures by the deadline.
Effort leader Vince Gisriel feels confident the group will be found to meet the goal once the signatures are reviewed. There will inevitably be names rejected for a variety of reasons during the elections board’s review process, but Gisriel’s claim the goal has been met is credible, as he has led numerous successful petition drives in this area. The man knows how to lead a petition to referendum effort. The group now has until July 8 to hit the overall required signature mark of 4,500-plus to place the issue before voters in November.
We feel a referendum to decide the matter is a good course due to the nature of the divisive issue. A majority of people seem to support the concept of a sports complex in Worcester County, but the proposed location comes with many questions, most notably access points, the traffic impact on existing infrastructure and the overall consequences for the Town of Berlin as far as water and sewer. All sides agree there are more questions than answers at this point.
If the petition effort is successful, the county may need to extend the current 180-day study period for the property purchase. The evaluation period is a key part of the process and more time would be beneficial for all. Ocean City needs to decide if it wants to build an indoor complex on the site and whether there will even be room for it with the planned fields. An environmental assessment of the property is underway. These examinations will take time.
Slowing the process is the goal of the petition effort, and it may be just what is needed to allow for these important questions to be answered adequately.