Kirsten Mustain

Grove Sun

Grove City Council passed a resolution to urge area voters to vote “No” on the half-cent sales tax proposal that would fund a new jail, which will be on the ballot August 24 at a regular meeting Tuesday evening.

The resolution cites numerous reasons for voters to turn the proposition down. Among those reasons is the fact that previous votes for similar proposals have been defeated three times, once in August, 2008, once in January, 2009, and most recently this past April.

If passed, the new sales tax would bring Grove’s sales tax from 8.8 cents to 9.3 cents making it the second highest sales tax in the state of Oklahoma.

The current incarnation of the jail tax proposal requests a .5% sales tax for the construction of a 100-bed facility to be built on the south side of the existing 62-bed jail facility.

The debt for the facility would be set for retirement on January 1, 2019 or earlier. At that time the sales tax would drop to .25% permanently for maintenance and operation of the 162-bed facility.

In addition, councilors noted that the commissioners had continually rejected holding a joint meeting in Grove to help educate the public concerning the proposal, as well as the fact that although Grove has approximately 56 percent of the county’s sales tax base, it only receives 1/20th of the monies raised for fire departments. Grove citizens also pay a tax to provide the green boxes where county residents dispose of their trash, however, they must also pay for trash removal within the city.

Other reasons included the fact that two of the county commissioners will be replaced in the upcoming election and Grove officials feel that the new commissioners might bring new ideas on how to alleviate the overcrowding problem at the current county jail facility.

Ward III council member Larry Parham said he did not like the way the tax had been pushed by county officials.

“They (the state) might fine us, but they might not. I don’t like being told that they will when they have never fined anyone in the history of the state before. Don’t tell me they will be fining us if you don’t know for sure and don’t try to force this down our throats,” Parham said. “There are better alternatives.”

At Large Council member Mike Davenport said he didn’t like the way people have tried to divide the county.

“Everyone says ‘Grove, Grove, Grove,’ but we’re Delaware County, too,” he said.

In other business, the council quashed a change to city zoning ordinances that would disallow non-tax-gathering businesses in the U.S. 59 corridor. Under the proposed ordinance new storage facilities, assisted living establishments, churches, fraternal, civic, and social organizations would not be allowed to locate on the highway. The ordinance would allow buildings already in use for those organizations to continue in their locations and to sell their properties to other similar organizations.

It was originally planned to help bring more sales tax revenue to the area.

However, council members and citizens who were present felt the ordinance was too restrictive.

“I think this ordinance was written with good intentions, but it got off track,” said Mayor Gary Trippensee. “I can’t support it. We need to be trying to get more business into town rather than legislating businesses out.”

Planning and Zoning Chairman Judith Read and Planning and Zoning committee member Rollie Cornnelson were both present, and concurred with council members that the ordinance needed to be reconsidered.

They had both voted for it when it came before the Planning and Zoning board. However, both said that, having thought it through more thoroughly, they felt that it was too restrictive.

“The goal is tax revenue production,” Cornnelson explained. “We didn’t have all the facts and it was not prudently thought out. We should be developing incentives for businesses to come into the area rather than making things more restrictive.”

The council also voted to continue its current agreement with Logan & Lowry, LLP for city attorney services rather than opt for a new contract.

Ward II council member Marty Follis and Trippensee voted to accept a new contract with the firm, which would require the city to pay a flat fee of $9,000 per month, which is a little less than the city paid per month on average during the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

However, Davenport, Parham and Ward I council member Ed Trumbull voted the measure down.

Currently council members are seeking a way to reduce the city’s attorney costs and it is uncertain whether they will retain Logan & Lowry.

Council members also voted to request proposals for the city’s solid waste collections. The city’s current contract with Allied Waste expires in October.