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typo in flier incorrectly detailed town's debt

January 29, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

HANCOCK - The author of an attention-getting flyer distributed before the Hancock election says a "typo" was responsible for an incorrect detailing of the town's debt.

The flier claimed that each Hancock property owner would have to pay $70,000 to pay off the town's debt.

At that rate, the debt would have amounted to $51 million.

"The $70,000 should have been $7,000. That was a mistake," Gerald Shaw, a former councilman, said Thursday. Shaw and Ernest Fink, a former mayor, signed the flier.

Shaw said he thinks he typed an extra zero when writing the flier, which also touched on other town issues.

He said he regrets the error, but does not apologize for distributing the flier before the Jan. 25 election. He said he felt it contained information that was important for voters to have.

An advertisement in Wednesday's Hancock News, signed by Shaw and Fink, says: "A flier that was circulated in and around Hancock this past week may have contained incorrect figures. The correct figures are trying to be obtained at this time and will be reported as soon as possible."

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Even using the $7,000 figure, the amount of debt listed on the flier is wrong, Mayor Daniel Murphy said.

Town Manager Louis Close presented a report to the Town Council on Wednesday on the town's current debt, Murphy said.

Total debt is $1.99 million, of which $1.8 million is for a major water project, he said. That debt will be paid off by ratepayers, not through taxes.

With 729 town water and sewer accounts, that comes to about $2,729 each, Murphy said.

Shaw said he was given the statistics he used by other residents. Other material he has since received, including a budget audit, suggests the amount of the debt is closer to $4 million, he said.

Murphy said the town received a good audit and he does not understand where Shaw is getting his numbers.

The flier was distributed last Friday, only three days before Monday's election. In response, a group of concerned citizens distributed information over the weekend, Murphy said.

Shaw's flier supported the slate of mayoral challenger Roland Lanehart Sr., and Town Council candidates Robert Forshaw and Billy Mills.

The responding flier did not endorse any candidates.

Voters re-elected Murphy as mayor and put newcomers David Smith and Roy "Randy" Pittman into office. Councilwoman Glorious Sagle was defeated in a re-election bid.

Shaw said he did not think his flier affected the results, but Murphy disagreed.

"I am sure it was a factor in the elections," he said. The responding flier and an article in The Herald-Mail on Sunday helped inform voters of the truth but not everyone saw those, he said.

Sagle and Fink could not be reached for comment.

She ran an advertisement in The Hancock News headlined "Note of Thanks."

The ad reads, "I have been privileged to serve on your town council the past four years. If the time spent on negative things were spent on constructive things what a great place our town could be. Thanks to those who have supported me."

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