With mail-in ballots in voters hands over two weeks ago, the public joined the Morgan County Council in discussing Proposition 1, a sales tax increase that could aid in repairing county roads. Five of seven council members publicly voiced their support of Prop 1. County Council Chairman Logan Wilde said he is in favor of Prop 1 because all the money raised in the county will stay in the county, since Morgan County does not belong to a transportation district feeding funds to the Utah Transit Authority. This is opening the door to UTA, which has been historically known for mismanagement, said Kera Birkeland, Morgan County Republican Party president. Last year, the county said no thank you to UTA. But here we are again. Birkeland said she will be voting no on Prop 1, because it would be the fourth new tax this year including a state-approved increase in property taxes, a 5-cent gas tax and local school board tax. It adds up to be a lot of money for the families in our community, she said. Birkeland is also concerned about the strings that come attached with Prop 1, including having to spend a minimum amount of money even if there are no roads to repair. That is the epitome of government waste, she said. Resident Roger Prescott agreed. If we cant patch chuck holes on Morgan Valley Drive between the ÖY and the Milton church, we ought to lay off people, Prescott said. We need to take what we got and use it to the best of our abilities. All council members agree that the current condition of county roads is not acceptable. We dont have the funding necessary to maintain the roads they should be maintained, said Councilman Daryl Ballantyne. Nobody likes taxes. That is the hard-learned truth. But this is one that is necessary. Ballantyne said that delaying road repairs now will ultimately cost the county more down the road, to the tune of $25 more per foot. Kicking the can down the road will make it so our kids and grandkids will have to pay for it, he said. Birkeland agreed that county roads need help, but would rather not have state and federal oversight of local spending. Councilman Austin Turner said while he was against the new tax in the beginning, he changed his mind when he realized Morgan County was a recipient county that will not only keep the sales taxes collected in the county, but also get additional funds from taxes collected on the Wasatch Front. That is when I finally decided that it is about time we do something like this, Turner said. We are going to get more revenue than we put into it. Turner said the additional money could be $25,000 to $30,000 each year, but Councilman Robert Kilmer said based on his calculations, it would be much less, in the neighborhood of $4,000 to $5,000. Councilwoman Tina Cannon said that Morgan will not be a recipient county if it doesnt pass Prop 1 first. Councilman Ned Mecham said that according to Wasatch Front Regional Council estimates, Morgan County could have about $248,000 if Prop 1 passes. While he failed to voice his opinion at the council meeting Tuesday evening, Mecham announced in a letter to the editor last week that he will be voting no. Kilmer said that even after reading the bill, he was confused about how that money could be spent. I have been really concerned with how they are tying our hands with this tax, Kilmer said. Parts of this bill are very disturbing. It is megabill, and very alarming at how many ties and stipulations are linked to the tax revenues, said resident Jennie Earl. Cannon reassured Kilmer that it can be used on repair and maintenance of existing roads, not just new roads. Wilde said it cannot be spent on salaries or county vehicles, only on-the-ground projects such as roads, trails, paths and bridges. If this will put asphalt on the ground on existing roads, that changes some things for me, Kilmer said. This is an option we have been given to fix our roads. The only control Morgan County would have is when to implement the tax, Cannon said. Tina Kelley, former county council chairwoman, said she is voting in favor of Prop 1 because there is no other mechanism the state gives (the county) to collect for roads, she said. The state is looking at every revenue source they can for state road projects, and eventually you will have to give more B and C road funds to the state. If you dont have something in place to make up that revenue, how are you going to pay for things? Cannon, who said she is voting in favor of Prop 1, agreed. I am (usually) anti-tax, Cannon said. So I feel I have joined the dark side. What concerns me is what they are going to do with the B and C, which is a majority of what we use for road repairs. Their plan is to change the B and C road funds, and this is what they gave the county to replace it. It is a necessary evil. However, after speaking with state legislatures including Mel Brown, Birkeland said state leaders are upset that the county is being told they might lose B and C funds. In essence, you are being held hostage by the state over B and C road funds, Councilman John Barber said. As a citizenry, we need to take our state officials to task for tying the hands of county people trying to fix roads. They have restricted them so much you have to do the two-step to get the damn road fixed. We need to shake the state legislature and say, ÖReally?
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