As the Young County Citizens for Responsible Taxation four-day petition drive continued into day two on Tuesday evening, board members and volunteers were optimistic they would reach their goal.
PAC members, including YCCRT adviser Lonny Hawkins and Chairman Carl Buschmann, manned two circular tables as citizens walked into the Graham Senior Citizen Center to sign the petition and receive information from core PAC members.
The group's unified platform centered around not divulging the exact number of signatures they collected as of Tuesday, but Hawkins did say they expect to have the requisite 1,250 signatures at some point, it was just question of when.
“We've had a large number of people come by,” Hawkins said of the petition drive. “We've already given petitions out to people who are working down their streets and local areas and family and friends they know, so we feel like it's going really well so far.”
Hawkins added that YCCRT would publish the number of signatures received at some point, but would not be more specific.
“The board has decided to keep the number for now in confidence,” he said.
According to PAC members, the door-to-door signature campaign scheduled to launch immediately after the four-day petition drive has already begun. Graham resident Donna Allen stopped by the senior citizen center with her husband to sign the petition at around 6 p.m.
“I think there was a lot of misinformation that was given when we first voted,” Allen said. “There were a lot of scare tactics used. I think people are realizing now that it's a different situation than what they thought it was when they started as far as telling us we would lose our hospital if we didn't raise those taxes.”
Allen also said that she's suspicious the tax might soon raise from its current rate of 36.5 cents per thousand dollars of property valuation. The hospital is important, but there may be alternatives to keeping it besides raising taxes, she said.
Current GRMC board member Lee Boyd visited the Graham Senior Citizen Center during the petition drive to engage in discussion with YCCRT members and understand more clearly the PAC's ambitions, as well as to disseminate some information to the group. Boyd said that he was not there representing the hospital board.
On the final day of YCCRT's petition drive, Friends of Graham Hospital Chairman Dr. Steve Jones issued a public statement on behalf of the hospital support group.
“The Hospital District is less than one year old and the responsible choice is to allow the soon-to-be-elected Hospital Board time to work through these issues at GRMC,” the statement read. “The Friends of Graham Hospital is asking everyone to NOT SIGN THE PETITION. Let's allow our elected leadership to do what needs to be done to help secure the health and well-being of our community. A petition drive to dissolve the hospital district is remarkably irresponsible at this point.”
Read the full story in this weekend's Graham Leader.