Vilonia residents to vote on sales tax for streets, parks in November

Published Sunday, August 17, 2008

Vilonia residents will have a say in November concerning a proposed tax designated for streets and parks in the city.

"Based on what we know, we are projecting it could bring in as much as $12,000 a month with $6,000 going to streets and $6,000 going to parks," said alderman Sherry Clements, following a Tuesday night special council meeting where the Vilonia City Council adopted two ordinances, under an emergency clause, to allow the tax issue to be placed on the Nov. 4, ballot.

The ballot issue will call for the adoption of a one-half cent sales and use tax. The proposed tax, if passed, will be split 50-50 with a quarter percent going to the street department and street improvements and one quarter percent going for expansion and operation of Vilonia parks.

With the resignation of Mayor Ken Belote July 31, recorder/treasurer Doris Scroggin sat in the mayor's seat at the special council meeting called to address "situations" concerning the road and street department, parks and recreation and the proposed sales tax.

Alderman Barry Eason presented the proposed sales tax ordinance as well as a proposed parks and recreation contract between the city and the Vilonia Sports Association (VSA) for the 2008 sports program. City attorney Danny Rasmussen assisted with legal aspects on both issues. After the meeting, Eason said getting the issue on the ballot will cost the city between $500 and $750 and, if passed, will become effective Jan. 1.

Although there were some areas where the "I's were not dotted and T's were not crossed," the council also voted unanimously to approve the signing of the park use contract.

"Now go play ball," said alderman Kathy French addressing the VSA after the vote. The city and members of the newly formed VSA have been in negotiations for a month or more concerning the city allowing the VSA to manage sports operations at the park. Members of the VSA including president Marcy McCroskey were in the audience and also were allowed to offer input during the discussion segment. Issues discussed included payment for trash pickup during the sports season, field preparations, utilities, gate money and hours of operation.

"We will work on a volunteer basis until the end of the year," McCroskey told the council on more than one occasion. More than once she also referred to the proposed tax saying the operation next year will be dependent on the tax.

"Right now, we just want to play ball," she said. "We've already pushed things back a month."

Fall sports at the park, she said, is scheduled to begin actual play the second week of September.

On several occasions Tuesday night, prior to the vote, Scroggin voiced that she was not comfortable passing the contract without "looking it over a little closer." One concern, she said, was grant stipulations. She called for a little more time prior to passing to make sure to "dot the I's and cross the T's."

French said she was in favor of signing the contract and "letting them get started," with review at the end of the year.

"We've put off," French said. "We need to do something for them tonight."

Other council members also expressed their desires to sign a contract which will basically be in effect only about two months.

Council members turned to Rasmussen on several occasions for legal opinions. With his blessing, the council passed an ordinance, with referrals to a couple of separate agreements, to be negotiated within 30 days. They also authorized Scroggin, as acting mayor to sign a park user agreement with the VSA.

The separate agreements include specific details including insurance specifications. Also, both parties must comply with specifications set out by the state Department of Parks and Tourism Outdoor Recreation Grant Program. It was said a new contract will be negotiated in November after the general election.

In other business:

The council approved a $10,400 contract with Wooten Brothers to do the construction work on a box culvert on Hummingbird Lane. Three bids were taken and the low bid was accepted.

City engineer Fred Fowlkes updated the council on Industrial Park West. Grants, he said, amounting to about $250,000 have been awarded to the city to go toward development. Also, he said, there has been several local contributions including his donation of engineering work and a donation of the right of way by property owner Bill Jones to allow a road. The Vilonia Water Works office is to be in the park.

The council also authorized Fowlkes to move forward with a joint venture with the county to pave 1,800 feet of Simpson Road. It was said the project will costs the city no more than $35,000.

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