Wellman supports option tax for safety center, tables cable TV referendum

Posted 7/22/99

Although representatives of the Citizens Study Committee for the Washington County Safety Center d…

By Ron Slechta

Although representatives of the Citizens Study Committee for the Washington …

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Wellman supports option tax for safety center, tables cable TV referendum


Although representatives of the Citizens Study Committee for the Washington County Safety Center d…

By Ron Slechta

Although representatives of the Citizens Study Committee for the Washington County Safety Center didn’t present a proposal, the Wellman City Council voted 4-1 to support a one per cent local option sales tax to finance the construction of a new Safety Center/Jail.

Councilman J. Carl Yoder, who attended the committee’s meeting in Kalona July l2, noted a committee member was supposed to present a draft resolution to the council. He praised the work of the study committee and urged support of the local option sales tax with 100 per cent of the tax going to retire the estimated $4.5 to $5 million debt for construction of the 2-story facility at the site of the present Safety Center/Jail. He said the tax would last about six years or until the debt is retired.

Yoder said he felt the committee “had done a super job” in their study and making their recommendations. He added unless progress is made toward building a new facility by December 31, the state jail inspector would reduce the population at the county jail to eight. He added that the committee does not have a back up plan.

Max Lewis, the only council member to vote no, expressed concern that the county isn’t using funds received from housing out-of-county prisoners for the sheriff’s budget or to reduce the cost of construction. He expressed fear that Wellman would have to be paying more than its present $54,500 to the law enforcement contract while the county pockets increased revenues from housing out-of-county prisoners. He said the would feel more comfortable if those fees were used to directly reduce the law enforcement costs, specifically toward the debt for a new jail.

Study committee chairman Harvey Holden stated on Tuesday that he appreciated Wellman’s support, but noted that he would have to vote to approve the official resolution calling for the special election.

Cable television referendum

After the council defeated 3-2 in a straw poll on whether or not the city should buy and operate the cable television system, Mayor Wilbur Swartzendruber declared a stalemate on the issue and tabled further discussion.

Swartzendruber, who wants a referendum on the question of purchase of a system from Triax, told the council members that they had better study the cablevision options before the next meeting. He noted MediaCom has told Triax that they don’t want Wellman as Triax’s franchise with the city has expired. Triax has rejected the city’s offer of $1,300 for each of the 348 subscribers. Triax wants $2,160 per subscriber or $712,000.

Swartzendruber urged a public vote to support the purchase of the cablevision system before the September 20th date when the MediaCom purchase becomes final. He stated it could not be put in the ballot, but the understanding is that Wellman Telephone Company would buy and operate the system. He added this arrangement would benefit the local phone company, school and city. Council member Murvel Weidlein questioned how great the turn-out would be on such a vote.

City Clerk Donna Wade noted that the city attorney had suggested holding a formal straw poll which could be done sooner and would be less expensive. Council member Jolene McCain expressed concern that the city didn’t have anything in writing concerning the Wellman Telephone Company’s board of directors’ support of the project.

Councilman Max Lewis also stated that the city needs to know were the telephone company’s board stands.

His motion to hold a straw poll to find out where the citizens stand if they support the city buying and operating the cablevision system (through the telephone company) failed by a 2-3 vote. Only Yoder and Lewis voted Yes while McCain, Mike Slagle and Weidlein voted No.

After the meeting, Swartzendruber said he wants a referendum on the issue as he felt it would carry more weight even if it costs more to do.

Other action

In other action July 19, the Wellman council:

• assigned Jelene McCain to get financial reports and other information on the operation of the Recreation Center. Ray Curl pointed out that since the city pays for insurance, etc., it is a member and is entitled to all financial reports and information on operation of the system.

• received no objections, written or oral, at the public hearing on proposed project to resurface and extend trails and walkways at the Wellman Community Park.

• advised Ezra Shenk the city would give him written approval to have goats on his property within the city limits provided neighbors don’t object. Shenk noted he has had a number of animals over the years without objection.

• approved agreement with Alliant Energy to install a used (from Washington) storm warning siren for a cost of $3,100. It will be placed on a 50 ft. pole supplied by Alliant near the old water tower.

•appointed Eileen Driscol to a six year term as a Library Trustee, replacing Madonna Droz.

•delayed action on amendment No. 2 to TIF district to the August 2 meeting.

•decided to investigate further a request for voluntary annexation of the Robert & Ann Wesner property.

•referred to the community club and Rotary the need to raise between $2,100 and $5,140 for new Christmas decorations in the downtown area.

•discussed getting quotes from local banks for interim financing for the sewer and water projects.

•decided to seek 50 per cent loan and 50 per cent revenue bonds for the Deer Meadows sewer and other utility projects.

•set a public forum for 7 p.m. August 11 at the Mid-Prairie High School Auditorium on the Activities Center Complex.

•tabled until August 2 the purchase of an emergency generator for the water plant at a cost of $28,060. More information is needed.