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Bonne Terre residents discuss property tax

BONNE TERRE – Some members of the Bonne Terre City Council asked residents who voted against Tuesday’s property tax issue to come to council meetings to share their ideas.

A few did.

But during the regular council meeting Thursday night, the residents discussed why they didn’t vote for the property tax more than offering any suggestions. The 75 cent per $100 of assessed valuation tax on real estate was voted down 600 to 251.

Richard McClure, who lives at a dead-end main, said he would have voted for it but he has been showering in dirty water. He has come to the city numerous times complaining about the reddish brown color of the water, asking the city to flush the hydrant regularly or tie his lines into another hydrant.

McClure said he didn’t understand the need for a street cleaner or a new fire truck. He said he also didn’t know why they were spending $500,000 on the old Bonne Terre High School when they sold Heritage Hall for $1.

He said new businesses, and therefore new water customers, have come in such as the prison, a motel and restaurants.

&#8220I can’t comprehend where the money is going,” he said.

City Manager Ron Thomure explained the new street cleaner was purchased to replace an old one that broke down. He said the new one is multi-functional in that it can clean out stormwater basins. He said the difference in a regular one and this one was minimal and they were able to save money by buying it off a state contract.

Mayor Sue Wilke said they moved out of Heritage Hall because it was falling apart and they didn’t have the money to fix it.

She said with the school, Sharo Shirshekan offered them a chance to save a historic building at one-sixth of the cost it would take to restore it. They still plan to move into the old high school building.

Thomure said they needed the property tax to follow Department of Natural Resources mandates to improve infiltration and inflow for wastewater collection. He said DNR has given them notice to proceed with the first phase of a long-term plan which includes smoke testing and camera work at an estimated cost of $40,000.

Another resident, Bob Marler told the council he was the one who made all of the &#8220vote no” signs.

He wanted to know why they could improve the streets and curbing in the park a few years ago when so many streets throughout town needed to be improved.

Mayor Wilke explained that money comes out of the parks sales tax which can only be used for park improvements. She said the reason residents are not seeing more street improvements is because it takes so much money to pave one mile of road.

Thomure said the Church Street repaving project, which is under way, will cost about $200,000.

Marler said it seems like the money needs to be managed a lot better than it is.

Another resident brought up the sale of Heritage Hall, the purchase of the old leather building and the police bikes the police department used to have. City officials explained the bikes had been received through a grant.

The resident said cuts need to be made in the budget.

Council members repeatedly invited residents to come to city hall to take a look at the budget. One council member said, &#8220I don’t think any of us at all feel uncomfortable about how the city is spending (its money).”

Councilwoman Janet Barton suggested the city council start up monthly listening posts at the library.

Greg Tyree, a councilman, said a lot of the facts get clouded. He said the property tax would have given the city a little bit of money to fix the stormwater system. But it also would have made them eligible for more grants.

Before they certified the election results, council members expressed their disappointment that the property tax did not pass.

The mayor said she heard some reasons based on incorrect information. She said she heard one rumor that the city purchased 19 new police cars. The city has 10 regular officers, five reserve officers and eight cars, two of which are new.

The consensus of the council was that they felt they failed to get the message to the people about why it was needed.

In other related matters, the mayor said she met with Shirshekan this week to talk about plans for the old school. She said they have decided to keep all of the city hall offices on the first floor to save on utilities. There would also be a smaller board room to use for council meetings. They council agreed and approved a plan for the new windows.

Wilke said the gym is no longer Shirshekan’s top priority so things may move faster with city hall.

In other matters, Thomure announced they have finally received a grant agreement from April 2005 which will allow them to proceed with Good Earth Park. He said work must be finished by July 31, 2008. They received a $150,000 grant but about $200,000 in matching funds will be used from the parks fund over the course of two years to develop the park. Thomure cautioned prices may be higher three years later.

The council also approved a bid from BBL Buildings and Components for a pavilion at the city park at a cost of $10,500. The pavilion will replace the pavilion destroyed in a storm earlier this year. They received $8,000 from FEMA.

The council approved a request from the police department for a narcotics detection dog, Abby.

Chief Doug Calvert said Officer Chad Brown’s vehicle has been clearly marked &#8220K-9 unit” and the windows have been tinted. Abby, a 2-year-old Shepherd is not a bite dog. She has been trained to find drugs and will be used in the schools, as well as for daily police work.

&#8220I think Abby will be a real asset to our department,” Barton said.

Also during the meeting, the council approved an agreement with Thurman, Shin, and Company for audit services; an ordinance approving Hawkins Addition final plat on Norwine; a lot adjustment on Ash, and a resolution to participate in the state’s cooperative purchasing program.

Also discussed at the meeting was the airport property, special metering for ice machines, city park vandalism, and truck routes.

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