Referendum unlikely on possible Pelham school system

Pelham officials said they likely will not hold a citywide referendum on possibly forming a city school system. (File)

Pelham officials said they likely will not hold a citywide referendum on possibly forming a city school system. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham City Council members said they plan to use input from their constituents and comments from public hearings rather than a citywide referendum to gather input before acting on a possible city school district.

During a June 3 public hearing on the city’s school system feasibility study, Pelham resident Randall Vice asked if the council planned to hold a referendum vote on the matter before making a decision.

“I do believe that this public hearing here tonight, the public hearing on the 17th, the over 150 phone calls and emails I’ve received have given me the information I need to make a decision,” said Councilman Ron Scott. “I’m not in favor of having a citywide election. I think the process we have in place (will) give us an adequate indication of the will of the public.”

Other council members shared similar opinions on putting the matter to a public vote. Councilwoman Karyl Rice said the vote would not be authorized by the state, meaning Pelham would have to “pay a lot” to hold it.

“I’m not opposed to a referendum, but I’m not certain it’s something that has to be done,” Rice said. “I like the idea of you all talking to your neighbors and telling them what you heard here tonight.”

Council members Beth McMillan and Maurice Mercer and Council President Rick Hayes encouraged residents to contact the council members to share their thoughts on the city school issue.

“I think we were elected to make these tough decisions for you,” Mercer said. “I think it’s important for us to know what the public wants.”

“We’ve studied it, and we’ve studied it immensely,” Hayes said. “It’s going to be something you elected us to decide on.”

Pelham residents will have more opportunities to address the issue during upcoming public hearings on the city school proposal. The council will hold another public hearing during its Monday, June 17 meeting in the Municipal Courtroom, and could schedule a third hearing for Thursday, June 20, Hayes said.