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Brasher volunteers moving forward with new library petition drive


BRASHER FALLS - Volunteers who hope to create a branch library in downtown Brasher Falls are heading back out on the petition trail again, while an attorney for the North Country Library System reviews the procedures they used the first time around to gather signatures.

Roger A. Linden, Potsdam, the attorney for the town of Brasher, had questioned the validity of the petitions during a hearing earlier this week because volunteer Michele Ellis-Porcaro had signed her name on each page of signatures, including those that she had not personally witnessed.

Ms. Ellis-Porcaro had told Mr. Linden that, while there were some signatures she had not personally witnessed, she had personally seen others sign the petition as she went door-to-door seeking supporters for the initiative. However, Ms. Ellis-Porcaro said, her signing each page of petitions was simply a misunderstanding about the proper procedure.

Among those that she did not witness were signatures gathered at the local IGA supermarket, LBSH Housing and during a local teacher conference. Those signatures had been witnessed by other qualified volunteers, who should have had their signature notarized at the bottom of their respective pages, according to Mr. Linden.

Library officials needed 80 signatures - representing 10 percent of the Brasher residents who had voted in the last gubernatorial election - to get the proposition for a branch library on the November ballot. The proposed library would be located in Crapser Hall in the former Boothe Building in downtown Brasher Falls.

All together, they turned in 11 pages with 130 signatures, but indicated on their cover letter that 89 were residents from the town of Brasher.

Mr. Linden had also noted that the resolution accompanying the petitions was dated June 11, but signatures were not collected until July and August.

“It says the petitions have already been submitted to the town. That could not have been,” he said during Tuesday’s hearing.

Because of the confusion over which signatures would be declared valid and which would not, Brasher Town Clerk Ellen Fukes indicated this week that none of the petitions would be accepted, meaning organizers will need to start the process again.

But Massena Public Library Director Elaine Dunne-Thayer said she hasn’t received that word, and they’re waiting for a review to be completed by the North Country Library System’s attorney. In the meantime, organizers are going on the premise that they need to gather 50 signatures in approximately two weeks.

“We’re not really sure. That’s what the town of Brasher is saying. That information has been passed on to the lawyers for the North Country Library System. They’re examining the issue and will report back to us,” Ms. Dunne-Thayer said.

The library’s Board of Trustees does not meet again until Sept. 10, the day organizers must have the necessary signatures, but Ms. Dunne-Thayer said there was the possibility they could call a special meeting to talk about the petition issue.

“Our board will wait and see what the lawyers from the North Country Library System say. It does take away some valuable time,” she said.

Volunteers, meanwhile, are ready to hit the road again to get petitions signed, according to the library director.

“They would like to. It’s what they want. I think there’s plenty of time to collect signatures,” she said. “I think if these volunteers are willing to go back out and get those signatures, I don’t think anybody should stand in their way.”

Members of the Brasher Town Board will have the ultimate say in whether the signatures on the petitions will be accepted. They must pass a resolution that states the submitted petitions are legitimate and that resolution will be forwarded to the Board of Elections so the proposition can be included on the November ballot. The town board is not scheduled to meet again for a regular session until Sept. 11.

Ms. Dunne-Thayer said she believes the Brasher residents should have the say at the polls in November.

“It has always been an initiative from Brasher,” she said.

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