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Orchard City now eyeing 3 tax questions on April ballot

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Orchard City's Cannabis Revenue Committee announced last week that it is ready to drop a recommendation for immediate repeal of the town's ordinances which bans marijuana business. The committee had recommended the town repeal current bans on medical and commercial marijuana businesses before taking the question of sales tax from marijuana businesses to the voters. It has drawn notable public opposition.

During a work session on Sept. 6, the Orchard City trustees discussed that idea and other possible changes in the direction of their initiative to find and access new sources of revenue for the town.

"The cannabis issue in Orchard City has changed in light of the Delta petition," remarked trustee Tom Huerkamp, one of two trustees who comprise the Cannabis Revenue Committee. He explained that he was referring to a petition circulating in the City of Delta to place a question on next April's ballot to allow retail marijuana sales there.

Orchard City trustees are now discussing three separate referred ballot questions for the April 2018 municipal election for establishing new forms of tax revenue for the town. One would propose a town sales tax; another would propose a town property tax; and a third would ask voters to decide on a revenue boosting measure based on allowing marijuana business in town, according to discussion at the work session. The idea would "give [the voters] a choice," said Gynee Thomassen, also on the Cannabis Revenue Committee.

Each "yes or no" ballot question would be worded to raise the amount of money needed for roads. But money would not be restricted for roads use and might be placed in a "public health and safety" fund available for other uses also, according to Huerkamp.

Adoption of a sales tax in town could also require that the town implement a business license program to ensure the state could collect sales tax and remit it to the town.

In another change from past discussions on the topic of roads and revenue, trustee Gary Tollefson, who serves on the roads committee, said that there has been a "change in thinking" about roads funding needs. He explained that road maintenance is now seen as needing an additional $80,000 per year over the next 14 years, a total of $1.12 million. The original cost estimate was for $120,000 per year over 10 years, a total of $1.2 million.

Tollefson based the change on the expectation that a chip seal coat on town roads would last up to 14 years. He said, "Eighty thousand dollars per year is a fat estimate" based on recent bids the town has received for chip seal work.

No decisions are made at work sessions and the ideas will be discussed further. A "revenue sources" business item appears on the town board agenda for Sept. 13.

During the work session, trustees also discussed options for the conduct of public meetings. Tollefson presented a copy of guidelines used in Paonia. The idea of printing rules for constituent comment on the town's agendas or making them available elsewhere was discussed. Mayor Ken Volgamore said, "In my opinion, things are running okay right now."

Trustees discussed scheduling a public open house meeting to meet directly with constituents about issues the town board is currently facing. An official date and time will be announced and printed on the water bills.

Also during the work session, trustees discussed sending a letter of support to the Delta Urban Renewal Authority for the river corridor development concept.

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