No opposition offered on Rifle’s ballot questions
RIFLE – Nobody showed up to voice opposition to any of the three ballot questions at the 2007 election forum held Wednesday night at Rifle City Hall.Lodging taxThe most controversial issue on the 2007 ballot is that of a proposed lodging tax, which was defeated in 2004 by a 52 to 48 percent margin. Voters are being asked to approve a 2.5 percent lodging tax, which would likely add an additional $1.50 per night to a motel’s rate and generate about $50,000 or more per year in revenue to the city.Doug Wright, owner of the La Quinta Inn and Suites in south Rifle spoke in favor of the tax.”This is a very limited tax and taxes the tourist,” Wright said. “Even at $100 per night, it’s $2. We shouldn’t really feel the burden.”Wright also pointed out that the tax would be a benefit to the city and create amenities that will make people want to come back to visit.The tax is also being supported by the Downtown Development Authority and the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce, who say it will only be paid for by those visiting the city and not the residents.Robert M. Cross, a partner in the Rusty Cannon Motel on Taughenbaugh Boulevard in south Rifle, has publicly expressed his opposition to the lodging tax, but did not attend the forum. Cross called the tax a “penalty tax” on those staying in Rifle, who also patronize restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores.Residency requirementRifle Police Chief Daryl Meisner spoke in favor of lifting the current residency requirement that mandates police officers live within a 25-mile radius of the city, saying that it hinders the department’s ability to hire officers who can’t afford housing in Rifle.”This last year while trying to recruit for several police openings, we experienced difficulty due to the current lack of housing or affordable housing,” Meisner said. “Several qualified applicants withdrew their applications or declined employment because they couldn’t find housing to comply with the current provisions. It took almost six months to fill the vacancies. Meisner pointed out that when the city charter was adopted in 1963, there were about 1,800 residents in Rifle and four police officers. The population is now around 9,000 with 19 police officers on duty.”In a perfect world, all the officers would live in the city and they could then contribute in many ways,” Meisner said.Land swapThis ballot question asks voters whether or not to approve a land swap between the Western Rockies Federal Credit Union and the city of Rifle. If approved, the credit union would acquire 6,250 square feet of property owned by the city that lies adjacent to and east of the credit union on West Third Street. In exchange, the city would receive a 20,935-square-foot property owned by the credit union located on the south side of Third Street adjacent to Rifle Creek. In addition, the city would receive nearly $119,000.Assistant City Manager Matt Sturgeon said both the city and the Downtown Development Authority viewed the swap as an opportunity for several reasons:The downtown would get a new building at Third Street and West Avenue; the city would get a strategic piece of land adjacent to the Valley Lumber site, offering Third Street access into the site; and the city would get $119,000 to put towards parking alternatives downtown.”The Downtown Development Authority, Western Rockies FCU and the city of Rifle have been working together to devise a plan that creates a win-win situation for all the parties involved,” Sturgeon said. “This question is placed on the ballot with the belief this will be good for the downtown. We hope the voters will concur.”Ballots for the Sept. 11 mail-in election were sent out this week. Full coverage of the election forum will be aired on Saturday at 6 and 10 a.m., noon and 5, 7 and 9 p.m. on Rifle’s community television Channel 10.
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