By this afternoon, it’s very highly likely that it will be known if the proposed $85 million Hamblen County bond issue to pay for a new jail and school upgrades will be on the March 2020 ballot, officials say.

Supporters of the bond referendum are circulating petitions to put the matter to a vote. They need 10 percent of Hamblen County registered voters – 3,326 – to get the bond referendum on the ballot. The Hamblen County Commission has the authority to put the question on the ballot, but the commission’s finance committee voted 5-2 on Tuesday not to send it to the full commission for consideration.

Hamblen County Court Clerk Penny Petty asked that petitions not be delivered to her office before this afternoon. The deadline is 4:30 p.m.

If the petitions bear the names of at least 3,326 people, the Hamblen County Election Commission office will begin the arduous task of matching the signatures to the signatures of registered voters that are on file electronically. Gardner has 15 days to accomplish that task.

Gardner says that one thing he will be looking for is men improperly signing their wives’ signatures and wives signing their husbands’ signatures to petitions.

“We have it both ways,” Gardner said this morning.

He says it’s a common, disqualifying occurrence in candidates’ qualifying petitions, and he’s expecting to see it on the ballot initiative if supporters reach the 10-percent threshold.

If supporters of the bond issue get the required number of signatures, and voters reject the new debt, it does not mean that Hamblen County will not have a property-tax increase to fund jail construction and upgrades to schools.