Majority of Ozawkians said to favor beer tax
by Dennis Sharkey
The city of Ozawkie may be turning to beer sales as a way to pay for needed public improvements.
Ozawkie Mayor Steve Stanton met with county commissioners on Monday to seek approval for a ballot question that would ask Ozawkie voters if they want a one-percent sales tax on beer sales.
Stanton said his city council has discussed the idea for the last couple of months while trying to find a way to pay for infrastructure improvements. The city is about ready to start a well project that funding is available for, but other projects that need attention are searching for funding.
“Looking forward into the future here I think we can see possibilities of having more repairs and replacements over the next two years if not sooner,” Stanton said.
Stanton said the city has also solicited the opinion of residents about a tax among other issues. More than 75 percent of the 80 respondents indicated they would be in favor of a tax.
Last month the city of Clay Center voters passed a tax similar to the one being sought by Ozawkie. Stanton said he reached out to Clay Center officials and they told him to start with commissioners.
Chairman Richard Malm said commissioners would have to discuss the issue with County Counselor Jan Hayes but would have a response by next week.
Stanton said his city would like to put the question on the April ballot.
Ozawkie currently has a sales tax, but Stanton could not quote the exact amount. The city’s opportunities for collecting sales tax are limited with Casey’s General Store accounting for the majority of collections.
Stanton said he doesn’t know how much a tax would generate, but summer lake traffic has officials optimistic.
“We have no idea,” Stanton said. “We know they have a very large sale of beer during the summer months. It’s really hard to estimate.”
In other actions:
• Lakeside Village Board Chairman Jerry White and other residents want to close Village Lane Road.
White said when he first moved to the village the road was closed at the maintenance shop, however, at some point the gravel road was open to traffic.
White said the answer to the question of who owns the road has eluded answer seekers for more than 25 years. If the road belongs to the village, they want it closed.
“We would like to have an answer to ‘Is it our road or is it not our road?’” White said. “We would just like to know if we close it’s going to stay closed.”
White said the open road is costing village residents between $900 and $1,500 a month from illegal trash dumping. The road leads to the village’s dump without dumpers having to go past the village office and out of site.
“You’re taking money out of my pocket so go somewhere else,”Lakeside resident Dan Shimmin said. “We just need to have the road closed to have that kind of protection and have some control of who goes to the dump.”
White said before the road was opened there were no problems with dumping. At some point the road was ordered open but White says he cannot find records of the order.
Lakeside Village’s issue is no secret to illegal dumpers. White said while filling his vehicle up with gas he overheard two men talking about the dump.
“I heard him tell his buddy ‘We better hurry and get down there and get this unloaded. We can take it to Lakeside Village because nobody’s watching.’”
White said the only problem with closing the road is that the school busses use the road, however, he doesn’t see a problem with diverting the busses through the main gate. White said he would explain to the district why the road must be closed.
• Progress on the Big Slough Bridge has not stopped despite some thieves taking off with materials.
Thieves removed about 10 pieces of steel railings for the bridge. About two pieces were stolen last week. There were 12 working days left on the project as of Monday. Road and Bridge Director Francis Hubbard said he expects them to finish on time.
• Construction will begin on a small bridge north of Oskaloosa. The project will cost more than $150,000. Hubbard said the lowest bid came in substantially below the estimate. The county’s cost for the bridge will be about $33,000.
• Brett Frakes was reappointed to the Jefferson County Planning Commission. His term expires at the end of this month. His new term will last for three years until December 2013.
• The Planning and Zoning department has hired a new employee to fill the planner one position.
• The county will hold a public hearing later this month for amendments to the 2010 budget for the Road and Bridge and Ambulance departments. Road and Bridge had revenues that exceeded what was budgeted because of payments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Ambulance Department took in more transport and user fees than expected.
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