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AUSTIN EDITION - Letter berates Lyle farmers

No one claims ownership of note

By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

Lyle-area farmers got an anonymous letter over the weekend telling them to give back government subsidy money by supporting a school bond issue.

The letter, signed only as a "former Lyle graduate," said farmers drive new trucks and tractors and work only two months a year but complain they don't make money.

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"Be honest and give back part of the millions that you get for doing nothing," the letter, dated Friday, stated.

Officials on both sides of Lyle school district's proposed $8.34 million bond issue denied any role in the letter. Voters will decide the bond issue Tuesday.

Dean Rohne, co-chairman of Save Our Schools (And Community), which supports the bond issue, called the letter an embarrassment to the election process. Rohne said he personally thinks it's a "last-ditch tactic to get people to vote no" by the opposition group Concerned Citizens for Lyle's Future.

CCLF co-chairman John Fossey, however, said his group didn't create the letter, adding that he was one of the farmers who got the mailing. His letter listed 20 farmers and the amount of subsidies they received.

People whom he knows are going to "vote no" called Fossey wondering where the letter originated.

"My phone rang off the wall Saturday night like you wouldn't believe," he said.

Some have claimed opposition group adviser Paul Dorr, an Iowa consultant known for defeating government referendums, sent the letter, Fossey said, but Dorr said he didn't do it.

"It could be anybody out there on either side. I have no idea," Fossey said. "But I know our group didn't know, and I don't think their group (S.O.S.) did either. That would be very dumb, whoever did this."

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S.O.S. members called some farmers who likely got the letter, Rohne said. The farmers said they were irate at first, but then realized S.O.S. wouldn't have mailed such a letter, Rohne said.

"They're smart enough to figure out that we didn't do it, but it's kind of concerning, too, at the same time," Rohne said.

In March, Lyle School Board voted 4-2 to have its fourth bond referendum in as many years. The past three votes have failed by 79, 29 and nine votes, respectively.

Under the plan, school facilities would be built northwest of Lyle School's gym. The 1906 schoolhouse and the rest of the school south of the gym lobby would be removed.

District officials have said that if the vote fails again, they'd likely seek an academic-sharing plan with Southland public schools for grades six through 12 for 2006-2007.

Polls will be open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Lyle School's gym.

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