A plan by Akron Mayor Mark Plusquellic to sell or lease the city’s sewer system to fund a scholarship program for local high school graduates hit a possible roadblock last week when opponents presented a petition containing more than 5,000 signatures asking that voters be allowed to weigh in on the action.

The grassroots coalition consisting of union workers — many of whom are employed by the utility — and Akron citizens have said they are concerned that privatizing the sewer system would lead to higher rates and declining performance. The petitions contain more than double the amount of signatures needed to put a referendum on the November ballot seeking to amend the city charter to require a public vote on any attempt to sell or lease a public utility.

The Summit County Board of Elections has started to validate the signatures and expects to complete the process in the next 10 days.

Under the mayor’s current plan, the city would enter into a long-term lease of the sewer system to generate up to $250 million to fund a scholarship program allowing local high school students to attend the University of Akron.

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