Sales tax vote will lead to city infrastructure

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October 16, 2014 - 12:00 AM

When USD 257 voters head to the polls Nov. 4 and decide whether to build new elementary and high schools, Iola city officials will watch with interest.
There is a financial stake on the city’s behalf as well.
Voters in USD 257 will decide on a proposed net 9-mill increase in property taxes, while Iolans also will decide on a half-cent sales tax hike. Both must be approved for the project to proceed. Likewise, the sales tax vote still would be null and void if it passes, but the school bond fails.
The city’s interest lies in the sales tax referendum, because Iola and the school district would split the proceeds. Each projects to earn about $300,000 annually.
If they pass, there are plenty of places for Iola’s share of the money can be spent, City Administrator Carl Slaugh noted.
While city council members haven’t spelled out plans for the added sales tax revenues, in the past that money has been used in part for street improvements.
There remains a lengthy to-do list, Slaugh said.
Topping the list is resurfacing (or more) of U.S. 54 through Iola.
It’s been about seven years since the road was resurfaced, Slaugh said, with “alligator” cracks and cupping visible along westbound lanes. “We’ll probably have to do some repairs regardless of what is done,” he said.
The timing of the newly found damage will be considered as city council members determine the scope of the U.S. 54 project.
Resurfaced asphalt roads, such as U.S. 54, should last about 10 years before they need resurfaced, Slaugh explained. Because damage has become evident in shorter amounts of time, a full-depth restoration may be considered.
That’s where state aid comes into play.
If the city opts for a simple mill and overlay, the Kansas Department of Transportation will pay for 80 percent of the project, estimated at $800,000, through its Kansas City Connecting Links (KLINK) Resurfacing Program. However, the state will not pay any of the projected $3 million for a full rebuild.
The KLINK fund are for maintenance, not reconstruction.
“This is what the council has to consider,” Slaugh said.
The city’s capital improvement program earmarked the U.S. 54 project for 2015 and 2016.

THE NEXT two items on the priorities list are both related to Cottonwood Street.
The first is rebuilding Cottonwood from Lincoln Street to Madison Avenue, projected at about $615,000; while the other is the proposed extension of Cottonwood Street north to Oregon Road, expected to cost about $600,000. The city tentatively set consideration for those projects in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
The Cottonwood extension, however, may get pushed higher up the priority list if the school issue passes.
“It’s something we’ve been looking to do,” Slaugh said. “Now, they may want to do it quicker.”
The Cottonwood extension carries other, as yet unknown, costs, Slaugh noted, because the city would have to acquire the property for the extension.
Other major projects the city has on its radar are rebuilding Kentucky Street from North Dakota or Strickler Road north to Oregon Road, which also may be pushed higher on the priority scale because of the new Allen County Regional Hospital; rebuilding First Street, from East to Lincoln; renovating Carpenter Street from Kentucky Street to the east city limits. Those were slated for more consideration beginning in 2019.
The final high-priority project is a full-depth rebuild of North State Street in 2022, from Buchanan Street to where State crosses Coon Creek. That project also would deal with flood control and water drainage as well, Slaugh said, and has been pegged at about $3 million.
The city receives a shade over $1 million annually through its existing 1-percent sales tax levy. Of that, one-quarter (about $300,000) goes to Allen County in support of the hospital’s construction. The remainder goes into the city’s capital improvement fund, while one-half percent goes to the general fund.
Diverting funds to the hospital has slowed the city’s schedule on street improvements, Slaugh said.
“There’s never enough money in the budget to do everything you want,” Slaugh said. “But we get by.”

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