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Potsdam recreation district narrowly defeated in referendum

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POTSDAM - The future of recreation in Potsdam is in doubt after over 900 property owners rejected a proposed recreation district by a narrow margin.

The town hall saw a steady stream of voters between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday. When the polls closed, 464 had voted against the district, with 407 voting in favor.

There were also 33 affidavit ballots which have yet to be verified and counted, but these will not be enough to change the results.

“The people have spoken,” Town Supervisor Marie C. Regan said.

The vote leaves the future of the recreation program in doubt. The village has already voted to drop support for the program by the end of the year. The cost of the program has long but split evenly between the town and village, but by January this will likely be the case no longer.

Ms. Regan said the town will continue to run some kind of program with the $190,000 it usually budgets for recreation, but it is uncertain what form this will take.

The fate of the village-owned Pine Street Arena and the village’s recreation employees is also unknown.

If the district had been passed, the town would have taken over the arena and the entire recreation program. Town residents living outside the village would have seen a tax increase, while those living in the village would likely have seen their taxes gone down. Those living in the village of Norwood would not have been affected.

The village originally voted to drop support for the program because village residents were paying more per person to fund recreation.

Those who opposed the district said they were sick of new taxes.

Town resident Michael J. Buffham said he does not want to pay more for a program his children rarely use.

“I’ll buy a pool if they want to swim. The taxes are just too much, it’s got to stop somewhere,” he said.

Even some village residents were opposed to the idea of paying a new town tax.

“I love recreation, but there’s got be be another way,” village resident Paula J. Parks said.

However, even though the referendum was defeated plenty came out to support the district. Village resident J. Patrick Turbett said the district would have provided a fairer way to fund the program.

“I think it’s a matter of equity,” he said.

Town resident Charles F. House said he just wanted to see the program keep going.

“I just think we should have a recreation for the youth of the community,” he said.

The election was open to all property voters within the proposed district. Those who were not on the list of owners were able to vote by affidavit ballot. In the coming days the town will determine the eligibility of these ballots, but it will not affect the outcome.

The coming weeks will decide how the recreation program will continue, and in what form.

“If the village continues to be adamant about not going back to 50-50, we still have $190,000 allocated for rec,” Ms. Regan said. “We will continue to do what we can for the youth of the community.”

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