Surplus sewer funds to build park sewer system

COTTONWOOD - The Cottonwood City Council took another step toward the preparation of a new fiscal year budget, by getting a council consensus on the use of a $13 million surplus left from the 1 percent sales tax that retired the original sewer construction bond.

Manager Doug Bartosh suggested to the council Tuesday that there are a number of city capital projects that are pressing for the city. Bartosh said the city needs to spruce up some of its properties and make them presentable so they can return revenue to the city. Those include the Old Town Jail and the old court building, which is being abandoned after a mold problem created a health problem there.

Bartosh said the library parking lot needs some attention and the Cottonwood portal signs need to be updated.

Not as critical are the needs for a new city hall, a second fire station and construction of a regional communication facility, according to the Manager.

Attorney Steven Horton explained that Cottonwood is likely not bound by a third ballot question that voters approved in 1987 to approve bonds and build a sewer system. That question limits the use of the proceeds of the resulting sales tax to sewer construction, maintenance and operation.

But that question, technically, should never have been asked, according to Horton, since such questions, not defined by the state, are only appropriate for "charter law" cities and not "general law cities" like Cottonwood. Technically it was an "illegal" question, which could be challenged, the attorney contends.

Still the council should "honor that promise to voters," suggested Tim Elinski. They agreed that the city should first use the money to pay the estimated $8.5 million price tag of a Riverfront wastewater system.

"That's what it was intended for," Darold Smith agreed.

Then, suggested Duane Kirby, "we could look at the remaining $4.5 million for what is good for the city."

Mayor Diane Joens also suggested, "It doesn't hurt to save some."

Dr. Bob Richards spoke from the audience to suggest that the $13 million left over could be returned to the citizens as a rebate.

Elinski dismissed that suggestion, saying that if the money was returned, Cottonwood would just have to ask for it again to build the sewer plant.

The council agreed that it would use the funds to construct the new sewer plant and then decide what other projects need attention while remaining frugal.

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