County residents could vote on pool, gym funding
Fairfield residents had an opportunity to vote in November about the city bonding for $3 million to assist with construction of a new outdoor pool at O.B. Nelson Park and a new gym to be added near the Roosevelt Community Recreation Center.
The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors is mulling an option for residents in the unincorporated areas of the county to have a similar vote later this year.
Supervisor Dick Reed broached the subject at Monday’s supervisors meeting.
“We’ve been approached by the [pool and gym] committee and I’d like to ask my fellow supervisors if we want to move forward to contribute funds or do some research about it,” asked Reed.
“I don’t know the feelings of the other supervisors,” he said. “The committee wants to know if the county is going to be a part of this. Do we want to organize and put this on a ballot in August for a vote?”
Supervisor Becky Schmitz said she would like to pursue the issue.
“And what dollar amount?” asked Reed. “If we go through the effort to put it on a ballot, which will cost around $7,000 for a special election, it should be worth the effort. The unincorporated population is about 4,000. I’m thinking, Fairfield pledged $3 million, the county could do $1 million.”
Schmitz and supervisor chairman Lee Dimmitt each said half that amount, $500,000, would be a good contribution.
“I think half a million is where it needs to be,” said Dimmitt. “This vote would be restricted to only unincorporated areas of the county, that’s the figure I’ve had in mind.”
The supervisors agreed to keep the vote only for the unincorporated areas because if all county residents were included, the residents of Fairfield would be asked to vote on paying two sets of taxes for the pool and gym; both county and city taxes.
“If other small incorporated towns in the county want to participate, the towns can also set up their own vote,” said Dimmitt.
A rural resident asked the board why it would borrow $500,000 to contribute to the pool and gym.
“I don’t think we could find the funding in our budget without borrowing,” said Reed.
Dimmitt said if the money were for bridge or road maintenance, he’d have no hesitation.
“But to me, this [pool and gym] are bells and whistles — nice to have,” said Dimmitt.
Schmitz suggested the supervisors research ballot language and the least costly method to come up with $500,000.
“If you use local option sales tax funds, it has to be a percentage,” said county assistant attorney Pat McAvan. “If you are borrowing/bonding for money, it has to name an amount.”
The supervisors also agreed the vote would be worded similar to the city’s language, indicating the governmental contribution would not be bonded for or spent until the pool/gym committee had raised the nearly $7 million in donations needed for the estimated $10 million project.
In other business:
• The board approved hiring Calhoun-Burns and Associates for the 2013 Jefferson County Bridge inspection and ratings, for $16,290.
Any additional evaluations would be an estimated $1,000 each.
“We are not set-up to do this type of inspection and evaluation in-house,” said county engineer Scott Cline. “We’d need to hire more staff. This is a more cost-effective way to conduct the required inspections.”
Cline said the county has 140 bridges and culverts to maintain.
The 2013 list includes 102 structures.
“Each bridge doesn’t have to be inspected each year, so it rotates, and this is the long list,” said Cline. “Next year will be a shorter list.”
He said the cost to hire Calhoun-Burns is about the same as previous years.
• Supervisors did not sign an updated 28E Agreement to offer to Maharishi Vedic City for maintenance of roads.
Supervisors have prepared and continued to discuss the agreement. Last week, the two governmental agencies discussed new terms in the agreement, including costs.
Cline said Maharishi Vedic City and Jefferson County share 4.69 miles of road with joint jurisdiction, which includes two bridges maintained by the county. An additional 2.67 miles of road lie within the city’s boundaries but are used for through traffic in the county.
“I drove out there this morning,” Cline said Monday. “Some of the [traffic] signs are still up. We asked for them to be taken down before signing.”
Reed had said last week he would not sign a 28E Agreement with Maharishi Vedic City until signs placed by other than the county were taken down, “So we can start with a clean slate.”
Maharishi Vedic City attorney Nancy Watkins was the only representative from the city attending Monday’s supervisors meeting. The previous week, Kent Boyum, city planner, had also attended with Watkins.
Watkins said the city council had reviewed the proposed 28E Agreement for 2.5 hours last week during a council meeting, but had not concluded the review. This week, Mayor Robert Wynn, Boyum and another city council member were out of town, she said.
The county outlined the rates in the unsigned 28E Agreement: 50 percent, about $400 per mile, for county maintenance of through roads within the city limits; and 25 percent, about $200 per mile, for county maintenance of roads where the city and county share jurisdiction.
Watkins asked if the rates were negotiable.
“A rate discussion is beneficial to all,” said Reed. “It should be a transparent process.
“What [reimbursement] Maharishi Vedic City gets from the state should not be a cash cow for the city,” said Reed. “What the state pays should be a pass-through to the county.”
Previously, the state reimbursed the county — and still does for roads in the other incorporated towns besides Fairfield and Maharishi Vedic City. When the population for Maharishi Vedic City topped 500 residents, it placed it in a different category for road funds, and the state directly reimburses the city.
Watkins said she’d like to return to the supervisors by next Monday with a city-approved 28E Agreement. The city council will meet again at 2 p.m. Friday.
“I’d like to sign it next Monday,” said Reed. “The signs will need to be down. I want everything to be fair and equitable.”