Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
About 10 people who want Jefferson County to hold another election to ask for $1 million to fund the community project of a new outdoor pool and gymnasium came to the board of supervisors meeting today and turned in more than 500 signatures from residents in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The task force/committee worked the past few weeks to gather signatures of support at the suggestion of Supervisor Dick Reed at a Nov. 25 Fairfield City Council meeting.
Task force chairman Tom McMahon turned in more than 600 signatures and said fundraising efforts in the past week brought in $410,000 in private donations, for a total of $4.132 million.
?It was good to pass the $4 million mark,? said McMahon. ?Yesterday, [task force member] Jane McMahon went through all the signatures and verified on Google maps each address.?
The main petition had 412 bona fide signatures of residents of the unincorporated areas of the county; Tom McMahon, said more signatures would arrive. Fairfield Park and Recreation Department director Derik Wulfekuhle arrived at the supervisors meeting, with 180 to 200 more signatures, putting the total at more than 500 unincorporated county residents.
?When I initially made the statement, it was a good thought,? said Reed. ?I wouldn?t want to spend $10,000 on an election if it was a moot point. Now, I can see there is support. Thank you for working hard to gather signatures.?
The supervisors opened the discussion for any public comment, and one unincorporated county resident of Walnut Township spoke up.
?I am not opposed to the project of having a new pool and gymnasium,? he said. ?I strongly oppose how it?s being funded. We fought for property tax relief.?
Reed said it is the democratic way to have different opinions.
?I had a guy call me and say he wasn?t opposed to the pool, but wanted to get rid of the gym project part of it,? said Reed.
Supervisor chairman Lee Dimmitt said he wanted to address what the audience member said.
?The city of Fairfield already held its vote [November 2012 general election] and passed it with 68 percent approval,? said Dimmitt. ?The only way to get the county vote without the smaller towns is to use the language we used.
?If we went with general obligation bonds to fund this, it would still impact property taxes, and probably cost you more. This way costs less for the county.?
Reed said the county?s proposal is to use the local option sales tax, and ask for $100,000 a year for 10 years to reach $1 million.
?The L.O.S.T. portion shared with the county has 20 percent dedicated to bridges and roads, and that?s not going to change,? said Reed. ?Of the other 80 percent, this will be about 15 percent dedicated toward the pool and gymnasium project. It works out to approximately $15 per $100,000 property evaluation.
?L.O.S.T. has shown some growth, and we?re trying to grow it more,? said Reed. ?This project should help sales tax grow, because people coming into town for sporting events at the gym spend money at stores and restaurants.
?This is a pay-as-we-go plan, with no interest on bonds,? said Reed. ?We have to have a vote to change the use of L.O.S.T. If we weren?t using the local option sales tax, we could just hold a public hearing and have the board of supervisors vote on borrowing $1 million.?
Dimmitt said Fairfield city residents are paying for the project, too.
?We were looking for a way to have the unincorporated residents have a say as to what happens with property taxes,? said Dimmitt.
Reed said he?d truly like to see every person in the rural fund vote on this issue.
?Then, we?d have a real barometer how people feel,? he said. ?The first vote [in August] had a low turnout. I know some people say ? why vote? They?ll just come back with another try.
?If people want this or don?t want this, vote,? said Reed.
He made a board motion to hold an election March 4 for residents in the unincorporated portions of Jefferson County to vote to support $1 million for the community pool and gym project. All three supervisors approved.
?All these signatures makes it easier for me to have more information, because of the low voter turn out last time,? said Supervisor Becky Schmitz. ?I?ve done this type of petitions previously, and I?m impressed with your efforts in such a short time of gathering all these signatures.?
Tom McMahon pointed out the petition signatures, more than 500, was double the no vote in August (211 no and 185 yes votes were cast in August). He thanked the supervisors for approving another vote.
?I really hope the committee stays energized and educates the public,? said Reed. ?You need to be talking about this. It?s up to people how to vote, but I want to see them at the polls.
?I?m with you, keep energized and it?s good to look for support from all elected officials. This is a community project that is good for all of us.
?I did have one other phone call that said county residents pay a different fee for using the Roosevelt Community Recreation Center than Fairfield residents. Would the new facilities be the same?? said Reed.
Tom McMahon said that is not true. There is no difference in user fees. Wulfekuhle confirmed that there is one fee structure.
Task force member Dan Breen said he wanted to add a comment that this is not an issue of the city versus the county.
?The L.O.S.T. funds are collected throughout the county, and the major portion ? because of the number of restaurants and stores ? is generated in Fairfield,? said Breen. ?The local option sales taxes collected are shared throughout the county. The taxes are already raised as a community.
?I know there is some resentment in the county that it is being put-upon by the city, but we?re a community.?