City voters say no to paying for sidewalks

Five election officials manned the clerk's office in the otherwise silent courthouse as 529 ballots from Tuesday's municipal election were counted.

No candidates for the five available Craig City Council seats stood nervously outside, waiting for results of the inevitable race.

"This was just too easy," election judge Barbara Willaby said.

None of the five seats were contested.

Mayor Dave DeRose retained his seat, earning 389 votes -- the highest of any candidate. Councilor Tom Gilchrist followed with 369 votes and newcomer Joe Herod was one behind him with 368 votes. Councilor Kent Nielson trailed with 354 votes and Billy Bingham brought up the rear with 343 votes.

Because he had the least amount of votes, Bingham will serve a two-year term, with the other three councilors serving four-year terms.

The seats are staggered so no more than three are up for election in any given year.

"When someone resigns, it really messes things up," City Clerk Shirley Seeley said.

Twenty-one people marked "other" on the mayor's ballot and 12 on the council ballot.

The 10-percent voter turnout shocked Seeley who, with an uncontested race, expected fewer. Especially when a low of seven early or absentee ballots were returned.

There are usually about 50, she said.

"I'm please with the turnout," Seeley said.

In the last municipal election, 370 residents made it to the polls. This year, about 10 percent of the city's 5,400 registered voters cast ballots.

"It was a pretty good turn out considering there was no council race," City Manager Jim Ferree said.

Seeley said she thinks a question that would have increased city residents' property tax by 1 mill to be used for sidewalk construction is what drove voters to the polls.

The question failed with more than 59 percent of voters saying no.

"I'm disappointed," Ferree said. "We felt like it was a high priority for the community."

If approved, the money would have been used to construct sidewalks to area schools. Once that was complete, it would have been put into a fund and used as a match for residents who wanted sidewalks on their blocks.

"We gave it our best shot," Ferree said. "We didn't feel it was that much money, so we didn't think it would be that difficult to pass."

It would have cost each homeowner approximately $9 per $100,000 of assessed valuation.

Anticipating a community match, the council appropriated $25,000 for sidewalks this year. Ferree said council members will now have to decide how to best spend that money. It's likely, he said, that it will still be used for sidewalks.

"We'll leave the money where it is for the time being and see what, if anything, we can do with it in the vicinity of the schools," he said.

Two other questions passed.

Referred Measure 2, which raises the minimum amount at which the city must complete a formal bid process gained narrow voter approval. The amount will increase from $5,000 to $10,000 after 274 voters said yes and 234 voted no.

Nearly 70 percent of voters approved a measure that transfers 15.5 acres of abandoned sewer lagoon property on First Street from the utility system and makes it available for sale, donation or lease in the future.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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