Election on sidewalk tax set for tomorrow

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By placing a question on Tuesday's city ballot to increase property taxes by 1 mill for the construction of sidewalks, the Craig City Council is responding to public requests, city manager Jim Ferree said.

Citing a 2000 community survey in which 32.5 percent of respondents rated the city's sidewalks as "unacceptable," Ferree said that indicates residents see the issue as a priority.

"All other city services were ranked acceptable or very acceptable -- snow removal, street maintenance, sewer, water," he said. "This was the only one that ranked unacceptable. That's the kind of the thing the city council has been hearing and with the revenue base remaining level at best, to add a new program would require a new revenue source."

If approved, the tax will generate an estimated $42,000 a year, which will be combined with the $25,000 the council set aside for sidewalk improvements.

"Basically it's not going to get done unless someone does something, so we decided to start," Mayor Dave DeRose said.

One mill will cost homeowners $9 a year for every $100,000 of assessed valuation.

DeRose estimated that $42,000 a year could build 3,600 linear feet of level sidewalk. That doesn't include the purchase of any easements.

Ferree said the city would use the 1982 transportation plan and a civic improvement plan as guides to the construction.

School zones will be the top priority.

"Constructing sidewalks in the vicinity of schools is recommended as a high priority," he said.

If the increase passes, city staff will inventory existing sidewalks and present an installation plan that begins in school zones and branches out over the community.

Property owners will be responsible for maintenance of the sidewalks, Ferree said.

Ferree is investigating cost-sharing programs that will help get sidewalks into residential areas. One example is in Monte Vista where improvement districts are established in places where more than 50 percent of one block of residents favor the program. Those residents split the cost of construction with the city.

"We hope at some point we could get residents to go into this with the city on a cost-sharing basis to extend sidewalks into residential areas," Councilor Tom Gilchrist said.

Also on the ballot is a question that would raise the city's minimum amount required to initiate the formal bid process from $5,000 to $10,000.

"That just keeps it in line with the increase in the cost of living," Gilchrist said. "Five thousand dollars doesn't buy what it used to."

DeRose estimates it costs between $300 and $500 in staff time and publication costs each time the city goes out to bid.

"There's a lot of staff time involved with generating that bid process," he said.

The third question would remove nearly 16 acres of abandoned sewer lagoon property from the city's utility system so that the council can put that property to use in the future, should it be requested.

The council would still have to approve a transfer of the property through the ordinance process.

"It gives us the ability to react fairly quickly to requests about that property," Ferree said.

There are no specific plans for that property at this time.

Craig residents are encouraged to get out and vote Tuesday.

"It's very important to take advantage of that right," Gilchrist said. "A lot of people have given their all for that right."

DeRose said even though there aren't many issues or candidates to bring people out, he would like to see a good turnout, too.

"It's a good idea to cast your vote," he said. "It gives us an idea of where to go in the future."

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

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