The public will have the chance to renew the Local Option Sales Tax this fall — or send it out the door.
The Ottumwa City Council will vote on a request for a special election to impose a Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) at its meeting Tuesday night.
Finance Director Bob Jay said the request would extend the 1 percent sales tax out to 2025. He said the tax has been in place since 1999, though it may have existed even earlier.
Citizens will vote on the tax in the general November election, with a simple “Yes/No” option on the ballot.
Jay said 10 percent of the funds raised from the tax will go toward property tax relief, and the other 90 percent will go toward streets and sewers. That means out of a total approximate $3.1 million LOST raises, $2.79 million would go directly to the city’s Expanded Street Repair Program and the continuing EPA-mandated sewer separation project.
“All the recent asphalt paving of the streets is paid through LOST,” Jay said. “Our intent is to use a lot of it to be put toward sewer projects so that we don’t have to borrow as much.”
It could even help pay some projects in full, Jay said. The funds will help finance the sewer projects so the city doesn’t have to go through required studies in order to borrow from the state, Jay said.
“It should save a lot of money interest-wise and for different surveys,” Jay said.
If the public votes to not renew LOST, the Expanded Street Repair Program will disappear, Jay said. There will also be nearly $3 million less in available revenue for the sewer separation project.
“That, in turn, will relate to an increase in sewer fees,” Jay said. “It’s not a scare tactic, but as far as the sewer project goes, we included LOST as projected to be renewed in order to keep the latest set of sewer rate increases as low as possible.”
In December, a split vote from the City Council meant sewer rates went up this year.
The base rate increased 25 cents per month — from $14.25 to $14.50 — beginning on Jan. 1, though that will not increase further.
The increase is largely based on the amount of water a customer uses, with an increase of 3 percent that became effective on Jan. 1, a 5 percent increase that became effective July 1 and a 4 percent increase that will become effective on July 1, 2013.
But LOST also means that visitors from outside Ottumwa will help pay for the city’s streets and sewers, Jay said.
“LOST allows the cost of streets and sewers to be paid by those who come in to town who are not property taxpayers and spread some of that payment on to them,” Jay said. “Whether it’s a penny or a dollar, visitors coming into town are utilizing our streets and sewers, and some of that cost will be passed on to them.”
Eisenhower bridge accident lawsuit
City Attorney Joni Keith has asked the council for approval to commence litigation against Corvask Transportation for recovery of damages to the Eisenhower Pedestrian Bridge in April 2011.
Iowa Bridge Culvert LC, of Washington, was hired to repair the bridge for $172,000, which will begin the first week or two of August, city engineers told the Courier Thursday.
“I’m getting authorization to file the lawsuit against Corvask and the escort service,” Keith said.
An escort vehicle was directing a Corvask semitruck hauling a wide-load wind turbine when it struck the bridge last year.
The accident caused thousands of dollars in damage to the bridge, which had been used by children to get across the highway for school every morning and afternoon.
“I’ll get [the lawsuit] on file by the end of next week or the first of the following week,” Keith said. “It’s a long process. I don’t think it’ll be very quick.”
Raking in the bike racks
In an unexpected turn of events, Ottumwa Transit found out they will be receiving all nine bike racks this summer that they previously thought they would secure in a few years.
“They realized after reassessing their budget that they were able to provide all nine of the bike racks this year,” Ottumwa Transit director Diane Gawronski said of Lynelle Diers and Joni Elder. “That was our goal, and we’re very excited.”
Diers, Wapello County clinical director of public health, and Elder, Community Transformation Grants program director, secured the $11,288 in funding through a CTG program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Wapello County Public Health.
“The good thing is, the funding is earmarked to be mobility-accessible and encourage physical activity, so they hit the nail right on the head,” Gawronski said. “It’s going to make many people in this community very happy.”
Gawronski said she and others at Ottumwa Transit never expected to be able to secure all nine racks in such a short amount of time.
“Now we’ll just wait for them to be delivered, and we’ll try to install them as close to each other as possible so no one is stuck without being able to mount their bike,” Gawronski said.
Riders are responsible for mounting and dismounting their bikes on the racks. Riders also assume all liability.
“I think there’s more people who don’t have driver’s licenses in this community than people realize,” Gawronski said. “Not everybody rides bikes for recreation; for many of them, it’s a form of transportation.
“Now they can utilize the bicycle and the bus, opening up a whole new world.”
Saving the trees
A group of citizens are also planning to attend the meeting. Chester Avenue residents are concerned that the removal of trees will impact their properties and the neighborhood and are hoping the council will look into an alternate solution to save the street’s trees.
The council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall. The meeting will air live on GO-TV, cable channel 6.