Independence citizens gathered enough petition signatures to put a smart meter vote on the ballot on Aug. 6, the Jackson County Board of Elections confirmed Friday.

The petition to recall Mayor Eileen Weir obtained fewer than half the required signatures, and citizens have 10 additional days to try to gain enough signatures.

According to the city clerk's office, the election board counted 5,035 signatures from registered voters – about 2,000 more than required – for a vote on advanced metering infrastructure for city utilities, better known as smart meters. Citizens needed to gather signatures from 5 percent of the city's registered voters – 3,084 people – and submitted more than 5,900.

The City Council, voting for the fourth time in 1½ years, voted 4-3 on April 1 to approve a $29 million contract for smart meters for the electric and water utilities. The item had not been on the agenda before it was brought back for re-vote. By the end of the week, some citizens began to circulate the petition. Lucy Young, a former council member and vocal critic of the council’s actions for several months, submitted the ballot petition.

The mayoral recall petition needed signatures from 8 percent of registered voters – 4,934 people – and netted 1,806 valid signatures (2,070 submitted).

The council now has 30 days to either call for an election or adopt the initiated ordinance as presented, which would prevent the city from completing a smart meter contract.

Animal shelter, use tax

At Monday's meeting, the City Council will consider an agreement between the city and Jackson County to take over operation of the Regional Animal Shelter, which the county built on city-owned land in 2013, and will also discuss a possible use tax on the Aug. 6 ballot to help fund such operations.

The county's contractor to run the shelter, Great Plains SPCA, announced in January it was giving its required six-month notice to leave, citing financial constraints. The announcement seemed to catch county and city officials off guard. Great Plains had signed a five-year renewal on the no-kill animal shelter just last year. The city, which ran its own animal shelter before the Regional Animal Shelter opened, is under no contractual obligation, but Mayor Eileen Weir has told civic leaders the city was preparing to possibly take over operation.

“This community demands that we have a high-quality animal shelter, with a certain live-release percentage,” Weir said.

“No kill” means no animal is put down barring a clear medical need, and Great Plains has had a live-release rate well above 90 percent.

The city is proposing that revenues from the 2.25 use tax for online retail sales be earmarked 50-50 for animal shelter operations and police officers. Funds would be monitored by existing citizen oversight committees.

As of Friday afternoon, the proposed intergovernmental agreement for the animal shelter was not on Monday's agenda for the Jackson County Legislature.

If the city decides to put the 2.25 use tax on the ballot again for August, a campaign committee for the use tax has been filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission under the name “We Support Pets and Police.”

Independence (and Blue Springs) voters turned down use tax collection in their cities last year. Mark McDonald, treasurer of that committee, was among a handful of citizens who addressed the council this week regarding the animal shelter. McDonald asked the city to make another attempt at the use tax for earmarked funds.

Also at Monday's council meeting, Council Member Mike Huff has again requested a 10-percent electric rate decrease phased in over three years starting Aug. 1. Huff's resolution did not gain enough support earlier in the week, as some council members cited a lack of plans on how to manage that reduction. City Manager Zach Walker will also present the proposed 2019-20 fiscal year budget.