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Road tax OK’d; school bond fails

JOHN A. BAYLESS, Sierra Sun

Truckee voters who turned out at the polls or voted absentee in the election April 14 overwhelmingly approved Measure A, adding a half-cent to the local sales tax to fund repairs to major roads in the town limits.

Measure B, a $35 million bond to expand and improve schools in the Truckee area, failed by around 3 percent. The bond issue required a two-thirds vote to pass.

Measure A apparently passed handily, with 77.5 percent of voters supporting the tax and 22.5 percent in opposition. Voter turnout was low – about 27 percent of registered voters.

Town Manager Steve Wright said the town is pleased with the results of the Measure A vote, which are the culmination of many years of work by residents and town staff.

“From the town’s perspective, I feel bad for the schools, but we are very pleased,” Wright said. “An item is agendized for the town council meeting Thursday, and we have a staff meeting today to discuss projects for this season, like Donner Pass Road. We want to maintain faith with the voters, and get some hard asphalt on the roads right away.”

Wright said the collection of the sales tax won’t begin until around September, and the town will not receive any funds from the tax until early 1998, because it will take the State Board of Equalization a while to put the tax in place.

He plans to ask the council to advance money for road repairs this year based on the estimated revenue from the tax.

“This is a combination of citizen efforts since incorporation, along with town councils,” Wright said. “Two separate town road committees refined it into a program the public would support. A process of about four and a half years brought us to this point.”

Former town council member Steve Carpenter, who served on two town road committees and chaired the “Save Our Roads” committee in support of Measure A, said the passage of the measure was the result of years of work by many people.

“It took three different committees and five years of work,” Carpenter said. “I chaired the last private committee, and sat in on the meetings of all of them.”

Carpenter said he urged council members and Wright to begin work on the roads immediately.

“I made it clear to them now that it’s passed we need to see some roads get fixed,” Carpenter said. “If not, I will be the first in line to take it back.” He said waiting another year will cost the town an additional $1 million in road repairs.

“Now that we have the money, let’s not wait,” he said. “A lot of people put in a lot of hard work on this. I’m glad that the community supported it. The council stuck their neck out by putting it on the ballot, and the whole town is rewarded by its passage.”

Local businessman Ron Hemig, who also served on the “Save Our Roads” committee, said the community’s support for the sales tax was encouraging.

“I’m really pleased,” Hemig said. “Seventy-seven percent in my mind appears to be a mandate. I can’t help but believe the current condition of the roads had a lot to do with the vote.”

Revenue from the tax will be used to:

— Fund repairs to 32 miles of “backbone” roads in the Truckee area, including Alder Creek, Donner Pass Road, Donner Lake Road, Martis Valley Road, Glenshire Drive, Rainbow Drive, Northwoods Boulevard and main roads in the downtown area.

— Free up money currently used in the maintenance of the backbone roads, allowing it to be used for repairs to other roads in Truckee.

The tax is expected to generate about $800,000 yearly, and will be up for renewal by voters after 12 years.

Upon incorporation, Truckee inherited almost $40 million in pending road repairs, and deterioration of the town’s roads is estimated by town staff at $1 million yearly. The current yearly budget for road repairs and maintenance is approximately $400,000.

Preliminary vote totals indicated about 1,505 residents cast votes in favor of the sales tax, while 435 people opposed it.

Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.com

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