At a regular Grove City Council meeting Tuesday night approximately 50 citizens crowded into Room 5 of the Grove Community Center Tuesday night to voice their opposition to the proposed sales tax increase, which will be on the ballot next Tuesday, August 24.
Members of Grove’s Get America Back group attended, along with a collection of other residents, to show their opposition to the .5 percent tax increase, which would be used to fund a 100-bed addition to the current Delaware County jail facility in Jay.
Ward III Council member Larry Parham opened the discussion, noting that he felt that the financial figures used in the proposal were suspect.
“Over the past ten years our sales tax revenue (countywide) has increased 65 percent,” Parham said. “They have not accounted for an increase in the revenue stream. Their reasoning was that you just don’t know if it’s going to be there, but you just don’t know that it’s not going to be there either, and the way it’s worded, they could use that money for anything – new patrol cars or new officers – and not use it to pay back the loan sooner.
“The numbers just don’t look good. We need something. We just don’t need this. They say they are going to build 100 beds, which is half of what they were going to build before, but the tax hasn’t been cut in half.”
Parham later said that he was certain the commissioners had made the best plan they could, but there had to be better alternatives.
“You don’t just build a jail and throw them in and throw away the key,” he said.
Grove citizen Bill Miller said he had attended the Delaware County Public Facilities Trust meetings, and that he felt they had pulled numbers “out of the air.
“There was a lot of hokey math coming out of that. They just had their minds made up that they want to have a big jail. Their goal was how big a building they can get, not how to resolve overcrowding,” Miller said.
One citizen said he thought the project was a “cash cow” for the county.
“There are alternatives for a jail that are much cheaper. Fifty percent of these people (in the Delaware County Jail) are non-violent. We don’t need to keep them locked up. That’s not the way you solve the problem anymore. It’s a total waste of money and they want to put it on the taxpayer’s back. Defeat this thing and go back to the drawing board to take care of this problem,” he concluded.
Ward II Council Member Marty Follis had the last word.
“Go vote. You can’t vote yes or no if you don’t vote. It failed by four votes last time. If we don’t vote it will pass,” he said.
Another citizen who attended the meeting to speak to the council about a separate tax-related issued was Will Winder.
Winder said he was going to start a petition to abolish the sales tax on food within the city of Grove.
He said the food tax is a tax on poor people who can’t afford it.
Citing a statement prepared by City Treasurer Lisa Allred, City Manager Bruce Johnson said that between 20 and 25 percent of the city’s revenue comes from sales tax on food.
Johnson explained that the city’s sales tax revenue was already down due to the sagging economy.
“At this point in time we are going to have to start cutting personnel to bridge that gap (in revenue),” Johnson said. “If we eliminate grocery sales tax it’s going to be over $1 million of the city’s revenue.”
He noted that the number did not include groceries sold at convenience stores.
Winder took the prepared information and said he would consider it, but that he still intended to circulate the petition.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people and they support this,” Winder said.
“Will they still support it when they call the police and the police don’t come because there aren’t any to answer the call?” asked At Large Council Member Mike Davenport.
In other business, a public hearing concerning the rezoning of a lot at 600 Grand Street from R-1 residential to C-4 commercial for the purpose of building a barber shop/office complex drew no comments. The council approved the measure.
Council members also approved the city’s compliance with the Oklahoma State Statue requirements for voluntary annexation of a piece of property near Grove Industrial Park at the request of the Grove Economic Development Authority (GEDA). Once annexed, the site will provide room to expand the industrial park.
The council also voted to go out for bids on attorney’s services. Currently the city contracts with Logan and Lowry for legal services.