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Officials detail tax plans

BY MAGGIE PETERS | APRIL 09, 2009 7:40 AM

Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty officials discussed future projects that would use revenue generated by a proposed local-option sales tax at a joint information session Wednesday night.

The tax, which residents will vote on May 5, would provide a 1-cent increase on sales tax. It would go into effect on July 1 and last until June 30, 2013.

Officials from each of the three cities spoke about where tax proceeds would go if the tax passes next month.

Iowa City’s presentation, given by Director of Public Works Rick Fosse, focused on a flood-mitigation project consisting of three components: elevating Dubuque Street, reconstructing and widening the Park Road bridge, and relocating the North Wastewater Treatment Plant. The projected cost of the project is $63 million.

During last summer’s flood, the bridge closed for 30 days, and Dubuque Street — the main link between Interstate 80 and downtown Iowa City — was under water for 32 days, Fosse said. The construction’s design attempts to prevent this from happening in the future, he said.

City Manager Michael Lombardo said the city will complete the ventures even if the sales tax is voted down. But the funding from the tax would allow the project to be completed quicker.

Coralville’s goals — delivered by city engineer Dan Holderness — also focused on flood prevention. The projects’ total estimated cost is $54 million.

Officials could improve eight mitigation areas in Coralville with the potential tax revenue, Holderness said.

He focused on the CRANDIC embankment, a railroad that flooded last summer, saying it needs permanent and removable floodwalls, among other improvements.

Unlike Iowa City and Coralville, North Liberty’s project focused on development unrelated to the flood.

North Liberty’s tax money would go toward improving Highway 965, said City Administrator Ryan Heiar.

Adam Bohr of McClure Engineering presented the city’s plan, saying its goal is to decrease traffic on the highway and allow for upcoming commercial growth.

Bohr stressed the importance of expanding Highway 965 to five lanes and adding left turn lanes to intersections.

The seven-phase project includes expanding roadways, adding traffic signals, improving streetscapes and landscapes, and creating pedestrian-friendly walkways and bike paths — with a price tag of roughly $30 million.

“We want to use this as an opportunity to create a community image and keep the environment in mind,” Bohr said.

Representatives from all three cities expressed the need for local support, along with federal and state grants, to pay for the massive projects. The local-option sales tax, if passed, would only pay for a small percentage of the ventures, they said.

“We have and we will continue to apply for a number of federal grants to pay for a majority of these projects,” Holderness said.

However, Fosse said, receiving federal grants is difficult without local residents support, hence the vote for the tax.

The local-option sales tax would not apply to groceries, gasoline, prescription drugs, or vehicles.


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