By Scott Sullivan
Eight district residents have filed for a recount after the Saugatuck Public Schools’ May 7 request for $39.94 million to remodel and improve facilities fell 1,044 to 1,041.
An email dated May 10 and received by Allegan County Clerk Bob Genetski Monday asked for recounts in Douglas and Saugatuck cities, plus Saugatuck and Laketown Townships, the district’s four precincts. It was signed by Maxine Dean, Andrew and Kimberly Zolper, Colleen Robison, Erin Molenhouse, Lindsay Tringali, Kim Ford and Sara Aumaugher.
A notarized paper copy of the request, plus a $100 deposit check ($25 per precinct) arrived at the clerk’s office via overnight Fed-Ex Tuesday, the deadline day.
The clerk has 24 hours by Michigan law to notify an opposing candidate. “I could not find anything that spoke directly to the process if this is a bond proposal,” said Genetski, “but it seems reasonable to notify ‘the other side’ as well.” He has two days to forward a copy of the petition to the Secretary of State’s office.
The clerk next will convene the county board of canvassers to review the petition to see if its content meets state standards.
“There is no timeline for conducting the recount,” said Genetski, noting board of canvassers chair Cathy Pardee had apprised him the soonest she would be available is May 20.
“We will need to find and reserve an appropriate location that will accommodate the recount,” the clerk continued. “With four individual precincts being recounted, the room will need to be large for that process and also for citizens to observe.”
Per the open meetings act, a notice of the date, time and location of the recount must be posted. “We should try to settle on a date as soon as possible,” said Genetski, “due to the number of precincts involved. Working around so many schedules may be difficult.”
The May 7 vote marked the second SPS bond request nixed by voters within a year. It was scaled back 21 percent from a $50.7-million proposal turned down May 8, 2018, 1,005 to 719.
“In light of the vote being extremely close,” wrote petitioners, “in addition to various concerns on the process, we have a good faith belief that we have a reasonable chance of winning the election if the votes are recounted.
“This has been (unfortunately) a divisive election,” the letter went on, “and numerous members of the community are wanting reassurance on the count in order to move forward without any doubts or lingering questions.
“Our reasons for potential errors in the precinct returns include:
“a) We understand that the ballot machine jammed multiple times in Saugatuck Township and needed to be reset;
“b) We have heard that voters received absentee ballots of deceased family members months after passing;
“c) Due to the high level of absentee voters, we want to ensure that all absentee votes were accurately counted and appropriate controls were followed.
“While we do not wish to drag out the process or create any hard feelings,” petitioners continued, “our goal is to bring a sense of peace and closure by ensuring every vote was counted correctly.
“We support our schools, our kids and the wonderful community that we live in. The voting process over this bond issue is a clear lesson that every voice matters and every vote counts.
“How wonderful that we live in a democratic society where we have the right to vote, and the right to a recount when the circumstances allow for it,” the letter said.