Rifle voters reject tax hike for rec center

Rifle voters have soundly rejected a sales tax increase to fund a new recreation center.

Voters also have elected three newcomers and re-elected one incumbent to the City Council. And, they approved city charter changes including one that formally gives council the flexibility to have the city publish public notices on its website rather than in newspapers.

Residents voted 1,063-685 against a 30-year 0.74-percent tax increase, according to unofficial results. The tax would have generated $1.65 million a year and increased city debt up to $21 million, with a maximum repayment of $42 million, for a recreation, community and health and wellness center.

“With the economy and no jobs like there are in Rifle it was not a surprise to us that it didn’t pass,” said Jake Mall, part of the campaign against the tax.

Mall said the measure was ill-timed and that sources such as grants rather than a sales tax should be used to build the center.

Angela Strode, a co-chair of the campaign promoting the tax, said she was disappointed but not surprised by the results.

“I think that it’s just a question of a tax. A lot of people, when they hear the word tax, they decide that whatever that is isn’t for them,” she said.

Strode said that although the campaign respects that view, there are some things worth paying taxes for, including the recreation center.

Mall said the group opposing the center supported all of those elected to council. Seven ran for the four at-large seats. The winners were incumbent Randy Winkler with 897 votes, followed by Dirk Myers (827), Barbara Clifton (820) and Hans Parkinson (783). Other candidates were Steven Fuller (694), Sara Brainard (639) and Wilma Paddock (585).

Mall said that of the winning candidates, only Clifton supported the tax, but his group also backed her out of a feeling that she would work well with others on council.

Longtime incumbent council members Alan Lambert, Keith Lambert and Jen Sanborn did not seek re-election.

Residents voted 1,203-394 for a charter change allowing the City Council to define what is a publication for purposes of handling public notices regarding ordinances.

City clerk Lisa Cain said Rifle typically spends about $3,500 a year in ordinance publication costs. In 2011 it spent about $12,000, however, and so far this year the cost has totaled $4,300.

Voters decided 1,259-353 in favor of mandating in the charter the council’s standard recent practice of holding a strategic planning session at least once a year.

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