Sales tax extensions to be on ballot

Robert Smith

Pawhuska city councilors voted unanimously voted last week to hold public votes Nov. 12 regarding the proposed five-year extension of a quarter-penny sales tax that raises money for municipal economic-development efforts, and a three-quarter-penny sales tax that raises money for the construction, resurfacing, and repairing of streets, roads, curbs and sidewalks.

The three-quarter-penny sales tax to pay for street construction and resurfacing dates back to 1984 and will expire Dec. 31, 2019, unless the public approves extending it. The council voted to seek an extension through Dec. 31, 2024.

The quarter-penny sales tax to pay for an economic-development program dates back to 1989 and will expire Dec. 31, unless Pawhuska voters approve extending it. The council voted to seek an extension through Dec. 31, 2024.

All of the council votes regarding the proposed extension of the sales tax measures were 5-0, unanimous votes.

This means Pawhuska voters will have to add yet another election date to their calendars for this fall. Voters will also be called on Oct. 8 to decide whether to recall four members of the City Council — all members except for Ward 2 Councilor Jourdan Foran, who has been on the council too short a period to be recalled.

The council also decided last week to explore more than one option for having repairs made to the city’s two-million-gallon water storage tank. City Manager Dave Neely is interested in moving ahead with the repairs as soon as possible, and Utilities Director Bill Bruce said the state Department of Environmental Quality is adamant that repairs must be done soon.

“It’s got to get done,” Neely said, commenting that the usefulness of the tank is declining. “It’s down to half the tank.”

Bruce said DEQ has expressed the view that Pawhuska must “fix it or we will make you fix it.”

Neely said that Barbara Albritton, of the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG), had talked to him about the possibility of landing a grant for $272,000 or more that would help to pay at least part of the cost of the tank repairs. Neely said Albritton would help the city with the application.

Bruce talked at some length about the possibility of striking a deal directly with a company that would do the tank repairs. That possible arrangement would not include the use of any grant funds, he said.

There seemed to be considerable uncertainty among city officials about how much the exterior and interior work on the water storage tank might end up costing.

Bruce said he has been trying to get something done about the water storage tank since 2000, and there have been four different occasions on which the city has been turned down for grant money to help pay for repairs.