Morning Sun

Recall effort collecting signatures

After recent delay, controvers­ial refugee housing plan called in question

- By Greg Nelson gnelson@medianewsg­

After a two-month delay, organizers of an effort to recall three Alma city commission­ers have started collecting petition signatures.

Leaders of the recall campaign met Wednesday evening at the Alma Public Library to plan strategy, according to Chuck Murphy, one of the organizers who is also chairman of both the Gratiot County Board of Commission­ers and the Gratiot County Republican Party.

“We had about 15 people at the meeting and petitions are going out now,” he said. “We’re planning on having a drive-thru location where the petitions can be signed as well as going door-todoor.”

The group is looking to recall commission­ers Roxann Harrington, Audra Stahl and Nick Piccolo for voting against a recommenda­tion from the city’s planning commission to deny the conditiona­l rezoning of the former Warwick Living Center

that will now allow it to be converted into a temporary transition shelter for unaccompan­ied male refugees ages 12-17 from the southern U.S. Border.

The Michigan Masonic Home, owner of the building, has agreed to a threeyear lease with Grand Rapids-based Bethany Christian Services, which will operate the facility.

Organizers of the petition drive are looking at opening a temporary headquarte­rs where petitions will be available to sign, Murphy said.

“We’re also planning to schedule a special event next Saturday (Dec. 11) and attend community events to get signatures,” he noted.

Murphy did take exception to letters being sent to Alma residents from a group opposing the recall effort.

“They say it will cost from $5,000 to $10,000 for a special election,” he said. “But state election law requires it to be held during the next general election, either May or November, whichever comes first. The next one would be in May so there is no extra cost to do this.”

However, the timeline for collecting signatures has been cut in half. Normally it’s 60 days but because elected officials can not be recalled during the last year of their term, which is 2022 for the three being recalled, petition signatures must be collected and submitted by Dec. 31, Murphy said.

“We’re going to have to hustle,” he added. There are three separate petitions, one for each commission­er, being circulated.

Organizers must collect a minimum of 745 signatures on each one, which is 25 percent of the number of Alma residents who voted in the 2018 gubernator­ial election.

“Our goal is to collect a 1,000 on each petition,” Murphy said.

Those who sign must live in Alma and be a registered voter.

According to state election law, if the required number of signatures are gathered and verified the recall election would have to take place at least 95 days after being filed and take place during the next scheduled general election.

The recall campaign has taken longer than organizers expected because the petition language was rejected twice previously, once by 29th Circuit Court Judge Shannon Schlegel after an appeal from the three commission­ers, then a second time by the Gratiot County Elections Commission, composed of Probate Judge Kristin Bakker, County Clerk Angie Thompson and County Treasurer Terri Ball.

The current petition language was submitted last month and approved by the election commission and the commission­ers subject to the recall did not appeal the decision.

The wording on each petition now states that Harrington, Stahl and Piccolo are being recalled “For voting approval of the conditiona­l rezoning amendment request from the Michigan Masonic Home for 842 Warwick Dr., Alma, MI 48801 on September 14, 2021.”

 ?? MORNING SUN FILE PHOTO ?? The former Warwick Living Center became a heated platform of contention after rezoning efforts to turn the site into temporary refugee housing roused outcry from public critics.
MORNING SUN FILE PHOTO The former Warwick Living Center became a heated platform of contention after rezoning efforts to turn the site into temporary refugee housing roused outcry from public critics.

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