Big Spring voters will get one last chance to weigh in on this year's municipal elections Saturday, as the fate of a proposed overhaul of the municipality's water and wastewater facilities using up to $13 million in economic development funds hangs in the balance.
With polls in the Big Spring municipal election set to open at the Dorothy Garrett Coliseum from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., local election officials are hoping for a heavy turnout to make up for the lighter-than-expected balloting received during early voting.
“We really had expected higher numbers during early voting, especially with the water project on the ballot. The issue has been a hot one in the community and that will usually drive voter turnout up,” Saundra Bloom, election administrator for the county, said. “Generally speaking, May is not a good month for voter turnout. This is Mother's Day weekend, plus you have a lot of folks going out of town for their children's playoff games, so it's a very busy time. That's not exactly conducive for good election totals.”
Big Spring City Council voted unanimously to have the water and wastewater project placed on the May ballot during their Feb. 14 meeting, a move that drew both praise and criticism from various voices in the community.
The ballot language, in part, reads “Shall the Big Spring Economic Development Corporation, a Type 4A Development Corporation, be authorized to use the sales and use tax imposed under Chapter 504 of the Development Corporation Act” for a 4B project, namely to “construct, acquire, improve, renovate and equip improvements and facilities for the supply and conservation of water, including the repair and rehabilitation of the city of Big Spring's water and wastewater treatment plants and repair and replacement of water distribution lines located in the city.”
As part of the agreement between the council and the Big Spring Economic Development board of directors, if voters approve the project the EDC will provide $750,000 a year for the first two years, and then 40 percent of its sales tax revenue — with a floor of $500,000 and a ceiling of $750,000 for the following 18 years — with the city of Big Spring picking up the remainder of the tab.
Bloom said a lack of understanding by the voters may be to blame for the slow voter turnout so far.
“It's possible a lot of people simply don't understand the project or how this use of economic development funds will effect the community, so they are simply avoiding the issue,” Bloom said. “It's really hard to say at this point. Regardless, we're hoping to see a good turnout Saturday.”
Also on the Big Spring ballot is the race for the District 4 seat on the city council, the only contested race in this year's election.
Bobby McDonald — businessman and husband of incumbent District 4 Councilwoman Gloria McDonald, who decided not to run for re-election — faces off against Loretta Farquhar for the seat.
Big Spring Independent School District also has one contested election — District 2. Incumbent Maria Padilla is running against Ed Ware and Pat Deanda. Balloting for the BISD election is also being held at the Dorothy Garrett Coliseum from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
The city of Coahoma has six candidates vying for three at-large seats on its city council. Incumbents Linda Luce, Paulette Lindsey and Zach Johnson are all seeking re-election, while challengers Billy Sullivan, Dan Shelburne and John Mulkey look to unseat them.
Coahoma Independent School District has three positions — all at large— up for election. Brian Moore, board president, Jody Reid and Alan Wright are all incumbents running for re-election. Challengers are Leslie Tindol, Gerald King and Paul Lewis.
Polls for both Coahoma contests will be located at the Coahoma Community Center and will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Saturday
Sands ISD has three at-large positions on its ballot. Incumbents Tommy Staggs and Bill Barnes are running for re-election. Michael Wigington, Wes Higgins, Blayne Archuleta and Matt Snell are also seeking election.
The poll for the Sands ISD election will be located at the school, according to district officials, and will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
For more information on these and other upcoming elections, contact the Howard County Elections Administration at 432-264-2273.