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August 26, 2013

Brown School group wants playground referendum on ballot

The November ballot will contain names of candidates for every office, and now it appears there might be a referendum question as well.

Friends of the Brown School are obtaining names to put a non-binding question on the ballot relating to their interest in ensuring a neighborhood park remains on the property once it is closed in June 2014.

“Our goal is to get a non-binding ballot question for this November,” said Amy King, a member of the Friends. “Since the question is non-binding, our aim is to get a sense from voters if they would like to keep some sort of park/playground on the grounds of the Brown School once it closes.”

She said her organization needs to get 1,200 signatures by Sept. 5 in order to get this on the ballot. When the group sought online signatures this spring for a separate matter, it garnered close to 500 (online) names in a week.

This spring residents of the South End objected to the sudden disappearance of a playground at the rear of the school. It was dismantled because of safety concerns, and Mayor Donna Holaday, with City Council concurrence, transferred $20,000 for new playground equipment.

Holaday and City Hall officials, however, now are studying whether the school would be an appropriate facility for conversion to affordable housing.

Friends of the Brown School seem to be saying that they would like a park on the property regardless of how the structure is used in the future.

The following is the message of the group, and the content they hope to get on the ballot:

“We, the undersigned, registered voters of the City of Newburyport, request by this non-binding initiative petition that the Newburyport City Council pass the following measure, or that the City Clerk submit such measure without alteration to a vote of the registered voters of the city, all pursuant to the city’s charter.

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