Humboldt will try again for sales tax

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January 15, 2013 - 12:00 AM

HUMBOLDT — Humboldt voters will be asked again to approve a half-cent sales tax to generate revenue for street repairs.
The issue will be the same as one turned down 441-218 in a mail ballot referendum last September.
A second election was proposed to council members Monday night by Dan Julich and Mark Slater, who form the street committee. No date was set for the tax, which would push Humboldt’s overall sales tax to 9.3 percent.
“We need to fix the streets and if presented right, I think the vote will pass,” said Julich, who noted September’s election came soon after the council approved a budget that contained a 10-mill tax levy hike, which may have left taxpayers in a sour mood.
If decided by about Feb. 1, the issue could be on the April 2 school-city election ballot. Julich, however, recommended council members wait until later in the year and to use the time to build an effective campaign warranting the tax increase.
A special election would then be held on the measure.
Julich said he favored another mail ballot election, which he said gets a good reading of public opinion.
Mayor Nobby Davis noted that a half-cent sales tax equated to $5 on a $1,000 purchase, and “an average trip to Moon’s (supermarket) would mean 15 to 20 cents more.”
An upgrade of streets “would be something our kids would benefit from and would be paid for as we go,” with the tax in force for 15 years, he added. “I want to do what’s best for the community.”
Slater pointed out that a sales tax taps the pockets of all who shop in Humboldt, including out-of-towners.
“It’s sure cheaper than alignment of the front end of your car after you hit a pothole,” he said.
At half a cent, “I don’t think most people really realize what they’re paying,” said Vada Aikins, another council member.
 The sales tax would generate about $80,000 a year, which alone wouldn’t be enough to pay for upgrades to about 300 blocks proposed for repairs. Supplemental funding would come from annual fuel tax distributions, which amount to about $50,000. Of that, $30,000 or so would be used for major street improvements, the remainder for regular maintenance.
The street repairs project is estimated at $1.7 million, with completion over 10 to 15 years.
Streets would be ground down, bases reshaped and they then would be resurfaced with asphalt.
Allen County agreed last year to assist with the work by dispatching a crew and a road reclaimer, a device that grinds pavement to small chunks. In addition to street repairs, some curbs, gutters and culverts would be replaced or improved.

COUNCIL members were receptive to a proposal from USA Pools, a Roswell, Ga., company, to manage Humboldt’s swimming pool.
Matt Satterly said his company would manage the pool, which would include hiring employees, providing chemicals and having it open 1 to 8 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day for $46,730 this year, or $42,470 for each of the next three years.
The city budgeted $54,427 for this year’s pool costs.
Satterly said his company also would provide swim lessons, schedule special events and sell concessions with 25 percent of gross receipts going to the city.
“We’ll tweak our program to what you’re comfortable with,” Satterly said.
Time is of the essence, he added, asking council members to make a decision by Feb. 1, “so we can start preparing for this summer.”
“Sounds like a good deal to me,” said Councilman Wayne Smith.
Others were more cautious.
“I think we need a little time to think about what’s been proposed,” said Mayor Davis.
Davis asked Otis Crawford and Sunny Shreeve, the swimming pool committee, to study the proposal and make a recommendation.

THE OLD city hall will be leased to Weide’s Cemetery Service and Memorials, as a showroom and office space.
Bryan Weide told commissioners the company, operated by him and Shelia Bolling, didn’t have a visible presence, only a shop at 420 S. Wheeler, near the old Lehigh Cement plant south of Iola.
They will use the Humboldt location as a place to display grave markers, monuments and other merchandise associated with funerals and burials.
“We also make name posts, stepping stones and address rocks,” Weide said.
He noted his family had been involved with things to do with funerals since the 1960s in Iola, including D of D Vaults before it was sold.
“I’ve been doing it all my life,” he said, noting that “sandblasting and all the dirty work will be done at my shop in Iola.”
The old city hall is for sale, but in the interim, council members have offered it as a business incubator. Weide will pay no rent the first year and utilities will be phased in at 25 percent in three-month increments. Weide’s lease would be terminated in 60 days if the building were to sell.

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