By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
A special city commission meeting concerning the future one-cent sales tax vote allowed commissioners and Focus On the Future members to discuss wording involving the ballot question that will be raised to voters in November.
Stan Wilbers of Focus On the Future would like to see a commitment on the ballot from the commission stating a community recreation center will be built with the funds from the next one-cent sales tax, should it pass.
“Eighty-five percent of the citizens that responded to over 100 surveys wanted a recreation center,” Wilbers said. “People have been wanting this for the past 20 years. People in town want it now and they want some commitment from the city that we will build it.”
Commissioner Dave Harrison said many may not understand exactly what a recreation center may consist of.
“I agree with you,” Harrison said. “My concern is the recreation center, what is that? How do we define that? We can say we are going to build a recreation center, what you and I will think is a recreation center, the next person will think that is not a recreation center.
“What I thought maybe we could do is figure out a way to pass the sales tax then we will give folks an opportunity to build a recreation center,” Harrison continued. “We will have a plan developed by the city stating, ‘This is what a recreation center is and this is what it will contain.’ You will be able to tell them what they will get for their money. You can’t put that in a question up front, I don’t think.”
Mayor Tim Long was concerned maybe the general consensus wasn’t heard regarding the recreation center. He feared committing to a recreation center on the ballot in November, could possibly fail the renewal of the one-cent sales tax.
“What my concern is did we get a true canvass of the people?” Long asked Wilbers. “If we don’t get the one-cent sales tax passed, all good works and progress in Liberal stops. If we are wrong about saying that people want a recreation center, and they vote against the sales tax, we hurt ourselves and the community bad. It’s a very fine line how you deal with this.”
Vice Mayor Joe Denoyer suggested the first question on the ballot would concern the renewal of the tax, while a second question would ask the voter if a recreation center was desired from the funds.
Commissioner Larry Koochel suggested the only way to pass the one-cent sales tax is to inform the community of all that has been accomplished with the funds in the past.
“We need to be tooting our own horn on what we have done that hasn’t cost the taxpayers anything,” he said. “Then when we get done, we put it to another election to see what people want to do with the money.”
City Manager Mark Hall informed the commission and Focus On the Future group the size of the price tag must be considered when presenting the question to the public.
“This could be the largest single purchase of the one-cent sales tax,” he said.
Commissioners opted for city staff to draft several examples of ballot questions to be reviewed and decided upon in early to mid-August.
When the ballot question is agreed upon by the city commission and Focus On the Future group, all will begin informing the public as to the nature of the one-cent sales tax and where the money will likely go if approved.