The first casualty in Sharon Springs’ ongoing snowmobile controversy came Monday when Karen Cookson pulled out of the school board race.
Mrs. Cookson had been one of three candidates seeking her own five-year seat; voting is Tuesday.
But, tired of the battle over whether snowmobiles should be allowed on school grounds, Mrs. Cookson said she’s off the ballot.
“I just decided I did not want to die on that hill,” she said, hours before going public with the decision at the SSCS budget hearing—and candidate introductions—Monday.
“I did not want this to be an election over snowmobiles—which it had become. It became clear I can do more good on this issue as a member of the community than I can on the school board.”
Because it’s so close to Tuesday’s election, and because absentee ballots had already been sent out, there was some question over whether Mrs. Cookson’s name would still appear on the ballot.
After talking with attorneys Monday, however, SSCS Business Manager Tony DiPace said they’ll need to remove her name and send out new ballots to absentee voters who’ve already requested one.
The controversy over whether snowmobiles should be allowed to cross school grounds on their way to Sharon businesses is longstanding.
Over the winter, after a close call on the elementary playground, the board approved a resolution from Mrs. Cookson, school board president and a vocal opponent of the policy, officially banning sleds there.
That led to a meeting between SSCS, the Village of Sharon Springs—which prohibits snowmobiles on sidewalks and streets—and snowmobilers in an effort to come up with a workable compromise.
There are indications now that the school board is having second thoughts about the ban and Mrs. Cookson said enough is enough.
“We are wasting so much time on this when our real job is supposed to be educating children,” she said.
“What’s it going to take? Someone getting hurt? We’re in violation of village law if we allow them. The board has become so dysfunctional that I owe it to the people who signed my petition not to be a part of it anymore.
“I also have to think of my health and sanity. Do the bullies win? Maybe. But the cost for all of us is too high if this becomes an election on snowmobiles. I can do more from the outside.”