Fire Bond Referendum Fails
71 percent of the more than 700 voters in Canton opposed the $6 million bond that would have seen the city construct three new fire stations.
The Canton City Council will have to start at square one to solve the contentious issue of fire services for the city after voters overwhelmingly rejected a bond that would have paid for the construction of three new city fire stations.
Of the 731 votes cast early and on Election Day, 518 ballots, or 70.86 percent, were marked against the measure.
There are 11,683 registered voters in Canton, which translates to a turnout of 6.3 percent. The low turnout drew criticism from those on both sides of the referendum issue.
"I'm sorry we didn't get a better turnout," said Councilman John Beresford, who was in support of the bond. "We would have if people understood the issue better. We didn't have a grassroots bunch of cronies like the mayor did to get the word out."
Beresford went on to say, "I wish more citizens had taken a more active interest in the city, but I understand that most people are just trying to provide for their families in this economy. They leave decisions up to the city council. That's what we got voted in to do and that's what we will do."
"Turnout was terrible, yet I honestly feel like it was a fairly representative sample of everyone, even if they didn't make it out to the polls," said Mayor Gene Hobgood. "When you don't vote, you don't count. The apathy there is inexcusable to me. Even though it was only a six percent turnout, those six percent made a difference."
Beresford criticized the mayor for his "misinformation" on the fire bond and consolidating Canton's fire services with those provided by Cherokee County, and wondered why Hobgood was so eager to turn over essential city services to the the county.
"If he's the mayor of this city, he should act like the mayor of a city and not give it away to the county," he said. "To be the mayor of a city you have to have city services."
Hobgood said he was "very pleased" with the vote, and hoped the city council would respect the voice of the people and consider all options on the table for improving the city's fire services, including consolidation.
He added that he thought the way the city council dismissed consolidation proposals with the county last year played a part in the failure of the referendun.
Hobgood felt that the plans to build three new fire stations were overly ambitious, and suggested that if the city had wanted to only build one new station and not use bond money, Canton's voters would have accepted that proposal.
"We need to provide the best service at the most economic cost and I don't care what name is on the side of the truck," he said.