Dozens of Northridge residents took it upon themselves last Monday night to initiate a grassroots, door-to-door push to educate voters about a proposed 3.5-mill emergency operating levy.

Dozens of Northridge residents took it upon themselves last Monday night to initiate a grassroots, door-to-door push to educate voters about a proposed 3.5-mill emergency operating levy.

It was an unexpected twist to a public forum held after the Northridge school board's regular business meeting, and it grew from familiar complaints about a perceived lack of communication between the district and its residents.

Resident Doug VanFossen called those communication challenges a recurring theme, noting that 80 percent of residents in the district do not have children in the schools and aren't being reached.

Some senior citizens, including Sally Hatfield and Winston Sayres, said they had never received information regarding the proposed levy. Several people in attendance worried that uninformed voters will likely cast a "no" vote Nov. 4.

School officials and board members cited fiscal limitations as the roadblock to reaching all residents -- both regarding normal district business and the levy campaign committee. Superintendent John Shepard said, for example, it costs nearly $5,000 to mail a districtwide newsletter, with another $800 in printing expense.

In what turned into a conversational setting, some residents wondered if it was too late to get the word out.

"If all of you here would just go talk to five of your friends and neighbors about it, that would help," board member Troy Willeke said after the school board had examined a variety of time, cost and logistical problems. "You can make it simple with one short phrase: If you don't vote for this levy, we'll be in fiscal emergency and your property values will go down more."

Hartford Village Council member Roger Bishop suggested having volunteers canvas all three of the district's communities -- Hartford/Croton, Homer and Alexandria -- and their outlying areas with an informational printout about the levy. Parents at the meeting were quick to offer their help.

Shepard estimates such a drive would include 5,000 households. "We'll come up with the copies somehow if parent volunteers will pass them out," he said.

Minutes later, there was a sign-up sheet circulating in the room filled with volunteers for the coming weekend. Tim and Anita McCoy were among them.

"I came here tonight to find out about the levy, not planning to vote for it at all," Tim McCoy said after the meeting. "Now I understand the need. I get tired of hearing people complain and talk about the issue of communication.

"It's time to think outside the box. The people they need to reach aren't being reached, so it's time for us to stand up and help. If they'll print it out, then yeah, I'll walk."

Meanwhile, the levy committee plans to advertise facts about the proposed issue in area newspapers this week.

Also at the forum, representatives from the Northridge Youth Athletic Association (NYAA) asked the board if they could use the former Hartford Elementary gymnasium for youth basketball practices because there's not enough room for all teams to practice in Alexandria.

Treasurer Felicia Drummey said a sewer pipe problem would prohibit use of restroom facilities there. Shepard said he would get specific information regarding the cost of heat and electricity for that segment of the building and meet with the NYAA about it.

Resident Kelly Best wanted to know why the district office is relocating from the "white house" next door to a large spare room in the modular intermediate building.

Board President Larry Porter said the house is in disrepair, citing examples such as no heat and limited electricity. He said they couldn't afford to repair it.

Residents Jeanette Pugh and Lori Smith asked if visitors to the district office would pose a safety threat to the fourth- and fifth-graders as they come and go through the school building. Shepard and intermediate school principal Robin Elliott assured parents that the hallways are well-monitored.