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Should the city of Oskaloosa sell Harvey’s Hardware store?

by Dennis Sharkey

What started out as a discussion about offices for the Oskaloosa Police Department ended up turning into a heated debate over City Hall.

At times council members and city staff became irritated with each other sometimes with raised voices while debating the city’s finances.

The discussion started with City Superintendent Bill Heard reporting to the council what Police Chief Rick Jones wants for an office and what the costs might be.

The question that sparked the debate was “How much money does the city have for any kind of construction costs. The question was posed to Polly McInroy.

McInroy didn’t have an answer and the more the council discussed the issue the more things became tense and more questions than answers began to develop.

Councilman Jim Faris said the city had money in the one-cent sales tax fund. However, Councilman Mike Paavola said that fund is strictly for streets and sewers.

McInroy read the ballot language for the tax that read, “and for such other governmental purposes as may be in the best interest of the city of Oskaloosa.”

Faris pointed to this language as the legal reason the city is allowed to spend the money on City Hall.

“I think we need to move forward on this as much as possible, as soon as possible,” Faris said.

Faris said he is tired of spending hundreds of dollars on rent each month for city offices.

Paavola said spending the money on City Hall is not what voters were asked to approve. He said voters were asked in the past about the pool and they said no to it.

“It wasn’t put in to build City Hall,” Paavola said. “It was put in to do streets and sewers.

“None of this stuff was in existence when that vote was put to the public,” Paavola added. “City Hall wasn’t even in the picture.”

Councilman Allen Wise said the ballot language could be interpreted the way Faris reads, however, it would violate the spirit of what voters were approving.

“When we were prompting one-cent sales tax it was really promoted for sewers and streets,” Wise said. “The wording of how you slip it under the rug, I don’t want to get caught up in those politics.”

Mayor Mike Boyd said the city should sell the building if nothing is going to be done with it.

“We didn’t have the money to buy the building in the first place,” Boyd said. “We robbed Peter to pay Paul. Since it’s tax dollars sitting there empty, might as well sell it.”

Boyd’s comments prompted McInroy to speak up. She said it makes her and other citizens mad when the council makes decisions and then doesn’t follow through.

Wise said things were different a year ago when The Harvey’s Hardware and 13 acres of land were purchased. He said the city’s finances were presented in a much more positive light when the decision to purchase the building was made.

“At the time we were making the decisions, we had the money,” Wise said. “We’ve been told since that we don’t have that money.”

Faris then questioned City Attorney Jan Hayes, who was also arguing against using the tax fund for City Hall because of looming sewer project payments, and Paavola about the city’s finances and why it cannot be done.

“Set a piece of paper in front of me that tells me you know exactly what we can and cannot do,” Faris said.

“I’ve been going through these budgets for so many years,” Paavola responded. “You need to learn what your budget tells you. I know exactly what my budget tells me.

“It tells me that we can’t do it,” he answered. “That’s why I’m sitting here arguing. What’s your budget tell you?”

Paavola said he would like the City Hall issue fixed but it cannot be done without money.

“It looks like you’ve got all this money but you don’t,” Paavola said about the reserve accounts. “Ya, it’s ours and, yes, we’ve got it in the bank but it’s not just out there for us to spend.

“We need a City Hall, no one is going to debate that point,” Paavola continued. “Somehow we need a way to pay for it.

“What are we going to give up because we are not going to raise taxes?” he added. “You can’t go and spend money you don’t got.”

The city spends about $700 a month for rent. Boyd also said in the past there was a reserve account set up to save for a new City Hall. He suggested the city set up a new account if it does not exist. He also pointed out that there is a donation that was given to the city for City Hall.

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Posted by on Jan 5 2011. Filed under Government, Municipalities, Oskaloosa. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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