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Peru referendum supporters look on as Steve Weberski (left) and Travis Nelson add up Tuesday’s vote totals at their post-election headquarters of Art Giese’s Tavern in Peru.
NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
Pool issue sinks
Peru voters cast 1,195 votes Tuesday against the idea of using property taxes to fund construction a new swimming pool.
The vote split was 59 percent no, 41 percent yes, according to unofficial primary election results Tuesday.
The referendum question was non-binding, which means the results don’t determine if a pool will be built or if property taxes will be used. But it does give the city and Friends for Peru Pool an indication that using real estate state taxes to fund a pool is unpopular with about three of every five residents.
According to estimated figures from Peru Treasurer Gary Hylla, borrowing $3 million to build a new pool would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $37 in annual city property taxes.
Peru residents voted 58 percent to 42 percent to defeat a proposal to reduce the number of council aldermen from eight to six and make two seats at-large, according to unofficial primary election results Tuesday.
This retains the current council makeup, where each resident is represented by two aldermen in each of Peru’s four wards. The vote was 1,182 against and 845 for the proposal.
“Turnout was really good,” Travis Nelson said. “I appreciate people turning out today.”
Nelson led a campaign to place the question on the ballot. He met with other supporters Tuesday night at Art Giese’s Tavern in Peru. Despite the outcome, their mood was upbeat.
Eddie Mitchell, who petitioned for the referendum last fall, said it accomplished a goal.
“To get the voters involved in the politics,” he said. “The more we can get involvement is just a winning situation for the community.”
Aldermen campaigned against the referendum and gathered with other city officials at Bartley’s Supper Club in La Salle, the business of city cerk Dave Bartley.
Mike Radtke was among some aldermen who distributed cards to residents asking them to vote “no” to the question.
“The people that backed the referendum said it was a referendum on the council,” Radtke said, meaning it was a vote to approve or disapprove of the current council. “At this point it’s a 59-percent approval rating for the council,” Radtke said, referring to early returns. “I think any elected official would be pleased with a 59 percent approval rating. Hopefully, we can put the politics aside and work in the best interest of our city and the best interest of its citizens.”
Alderman Mike Sapienza said he was disappointed the referendum was placed on the ballot, “to create such a negative atmosphere in the city, in a city that has so many positives that haven’t been touted.”
“In the future we need to toot our horn a little more,” he said. “We’re very fortunate to live in Peru and we should be proud to be a part of it.”
Referendum supporter Mike Hart said he would whittle the council to just four aldermen.
“I’m a strong believer in less government,” Hart said. “I thought we had a very good chance.”
A political battle of editorial letters waged in the NewsTribune. Hart was among the letter writers. All sitting aldermen except Rodney Perez and many past council members took out an advertisement against the referendum.
“I don’t believe the active aldermen should have taken a side in this either way,” Hart said.
Backers of the proposal, Peru At Large Initiative, petitioned last fall to place the question on Tuesday’s ballot. They erected signs and created Internet and Facebook pages.
They stated a reformed council would give each resident more representation, one ward alderman and two at-large aldermen. It also would have wiped council seats clean for the city election in 2015, giving hopefuls more chances to run.
Brett King supported the referendum and said “the city needs new ideas.”
“Right now the council is very predictable,” he said. “By bringing in fresh faces there could be more discussion on debatable topics.”
King said he was pleased that the proposal garnered 42 percent support.
“It got defeated but it won’t defeat us,” King said. “We’re not going anywhere.”
Alderman Dave Waldorf said he was pleased.
“I want to thank the people of Peru for recognizing that their council is working for them,” he said.
Alderman Becky Mueller said she was “relieved it’s over.”
“I’m glad we were able to push back and that the citizens of Peru appreciate us and the hard work we all did,” she said.