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October 31, 2012
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Rifle sales tax hike fate could affect other projects

Rifle voters hold the key to a 3/4 of a cent sales and use tax increase, which could potentially affect backers of a recreation center and an events center, if each wants to ask for similar tax measures in the years ahead.

The city is seeking the tax hike - ballot question 2A - to help cover the costs of a $25 million water treatment plant to replace the outdated Graham Mesa plant. If approved, city officials have said the revenue will help pay off a low-interest loan from the Colorado Water and Power Development Authority for the plant, and reduce the amount of future water rate hikes.

A recreation center has been proposed to be built at Metro Park, and backers had considered a sales tax increase as part of their preliminary funding options.

Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. President Michael Langhorne said a funding feasibility study on the recreation center was finished in May, but the corporation board decided against releasing the results until after the election.

No city funds have been used toward the recreation center, Langhorne said, including for the study.

"It would be a city-owned and operated facility, but we haven't received any city money," he said.

The study's findings and a recommendation on a funding source is due to be presented to the city council in January, Langhorne said.

One recreation and events center supporter, Tanya Giard of Rifle, said she feels if the sales tax passes in the election, "both of these projects will be without any help."

"So, I'm telling people to vote 'no' because I want my community to have a chance to use that money to make our community better," Giard added. "I understand the importance of having a water plant, but I want these two projects to get some help."

Giard, a 15-year Rifle resident, said the issue is "touchy and a hard subject" to decide.

"It's not black and white, but I just think if it passes, we won't ever see an events center or a recreation center," Giard added.

If Rifle already had a recreation center, Giard said she would favor the sales tax for the water plant.

Giard notes that people are likely to drive 20, 30 miles or further to an events center or recreation center in Rifle, but the water plant is mostly for residents.

"But, I just think people should vote 'no' because I really feel it will take away an opportunity to have venues like these two centers," Giard said.

The New Ute Events Center, formerly Rifle Creek Theater, is another project that might want to use sales tax revenue in the future.

New Ute Theatre Society board president Helen Rogers did not want to comment on what impact the 3/4 cent tax measure's possible passage might have on her group's plans until after the election.


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The Post Independent Updated Oct 31, 2012 05:14PM Published Oct 31, 2012 05:12PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.