Sales tax: City committee sets meeting for discussionIn what could only be called a paradox, the City Council’s Public Works Committee Thursday dealt with flood-related issues along with complaints that the river is too low. To deal with the aftereffects of spring flooding on city infrastructure, the committee decided to hold a special meeting next week to discuss using a half of the 1 percent sales tax for repairs. Councilman Pat Nygaard said he wanted ample time for discussion.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
In what could only be called a paradox, the City Council’s Public Works Committee Thursday dealt with flood-related issues along with complaints that the river is too low.
To deal with the aftereffects of spring flooding on city infrastructure, the committee decided to hold a special meeting next week to discuss using a half of the 1 percent sales tax for repairs. Councilman Pat Nygaard said he wanted ample time for discussion.
He explained his process in deciding to push for use of half of the funds now dedicated to economic development for infrastructure. He said even before the spring brought serious problems to the city’s sanitary and storm sewer systems, he had talked about the idea.
“A year ago, I started looking at the 1 percent sales tax, knowing that other cities had multiple uses for theirs,” he said.
Now critical repairs are needed for the sanitary system estimated at a cost of $9 to $12 million. Nygaard is proposing the City Council amend the ordinance to take a half cent of the economic development fund for those repairs. The change would begin Jan. 1. In order to start repair work in the spring, Nygaard’s plan is to enter into a bonding agreement.
“We started out to schedule a meeting to discuss this, but you’ve laid out your whole position,” said Councilman Ken Schulz. “I think it’s wrong to ignore what the voters have voted on. I think we’re thumbing our noses at it. But let’s schedule a special meeting then to talk about it.”
Mayor Clarice Liechty said there were a number of people at the committee meeting who wanted to address the issue. She suggested giving each side five minutes.
Councilman Charlie Kourajian asked City Attorney Ken Dalsted if the council could just vote to change the ordinance.
“You can change it or send it to a vote of the people,” Dalsted said.
Jim Boyd, president of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. Board, said as a partner with the city in economic development, he would ask the council to proceed cautiously on this issue.
“We’re sensitive to city issues. We live and pay taxes here,” he said. “We also want to see the city thrive. This should go back to the voters. It will have a negative effect on growth.”
John Grabinger, former City Council member and an organizer in the petition drive to take a half cent for infrastructure, said he understood the council’s position. He presented the council with the petition.
“Well over 1,000 people have signed the petition asking you to take action,” he said. “This is about our community and we need to do what’s best for our community.”
The special council meeting is set for 4 p.m. Thursday.
Several homeowners whose yards were damaged by dikes told the Public Works Committee they were promised everything would be repaired by the city. That isn’t happening. One homeowner, Ruth Monson, said she wanted the council to “revisit this” She said the dike in her yard was not there to protect her home, but to protect the community. She suggested reducing property taxes as compensation for the cost of repair. Other homeowners agreed the diking wasn’t necessary.
City Engineer Reed Schwartzkopf said the Army Corps of Engineers’ original plan was for 4,000 cubic feet per second flows from the two dams. The corps had wanted dikes going down some streets, but the city argued to move diking so houses would be on the dry side.
“There was nothing put in that was needless had we reached 4,000 cfs,” Schwartzkopf said.
The committee opted to table the issue until its next Public Works Committee meeting in September.
After hearing from homeowners upriver from the Icehouse Dam, the committee agreed the gates should be closed. It hasn’t been done because the street department has been too busy, Schwartzkopf said.
“And we believe the storm event we had last winter may have damaged the gates,” he said. “This wasn’t one of the highest priorities for us to deal with. We still have some major repair issues.”
The corps wanted the gates open during the controlled flood. Closed, the gates hold back water. Lyle Sjostrom wanted to know why the city wouldn’t lower the gates now that high water wasn’t an issue.
“The river stinks, it’s so low,” he said.
Kourajian said the council had ruled on this before. The gates are supposed to be kept closed, he said, so the street department needs to close them.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at email@example.com