Rifle City Council members discuss upcoming ballot issues
RIFLE – Three open city council seats and the resurgence of a proposed lodging tax are some of the items that are likely to be on the city’s ballot in the municipal election in September.Rifle City Council members held a workshop meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the proposed ballot issues for the Sept. 11, 2007 municipal election.The seats of councilors Jeff Johnson, Jonathan Rice and Sandy Vaccaro are all up for election. Both Johnson and Vaccaro have indicated so far that they do not intend to run again.Johnson, of Jeff Johnson Architects in Rifle, has served on the board for the past four years and says he will not run again because of his growing business, but is leaving the door open to possibly running again in the future.Vaccaro, a social studies teacher at Rifle Middle School, has served two terms on council – one from 1993 to 1997 and the current term since 2004. He and his wife, who also works in the school system, are retiring next year and have other plans.”I’ve done my part,” Vaccaro said. “It’s time to step down and get some new blood in there.”Both men reiterated that they have enjoyed being on the council and say it has been a good group to work with.”I had a great time,” Vaccaro said. “I have no regrets. We put the people first. And (Mayor) Keith Lambert has been wonderful.”Rice is a social studies teacher at Rifle High School and said he wants to continue serving on the council.”I enjoy it,” he said. “I like being part of it, I like working with the (city) staff.”
The city is also looking at resurrecting the lodging tax question. A proposed 2.5 percent lodging tax increase was on the ballot in 2004, but failed by a 52 to 48 percent margin. The tax was, and still is, being endorsed by the Downtown Development Authority and the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce. The last proposal would have added about $1.50 per night to a motel’s rate. In 2004, two motels were in favor and two were against the measure. “I don’t know what form it will take this time,” said Mayor Keith Lambert.
• Rifle police residency: A proposal to lift the residency requirement for police officers and other city staff is once again being talked about. The issue was raised last year in response to the lack of affordable housing to eliminate the requirement that key city staff live within a 25-mile radius of the city, which would include New Castle, Silt and Parachute. Should the measure make it onto the ballot and be passed, it would allow employees to live as far away as Grand Junction.• Public input on ordinances: Council is also looking at cleaning up some language in the home rule charter that would have public hearings on an ordinance held on the first reading instead of the second, Lambert said.The change would allow for presentations by the applicant and public input prior to the council passing the ordinance on second reading.• Land swap: Voters will decide whether or not the city should swap land with the Western Rockies Federal Credit Union on West Third Street. The city currently owns a lot next to the credit union, which is used as a parking lot. The credit union owns a larger piece of land a block down the street. There are no structures on the vacant lot.”This would give us an opportunity for greater economic development,” Lambert said. “But we’ll have more details later.”None of the proposed ballot questions will cost the taxpayers of Rifle any money, Lambert said. The only taxing issue is the lodging tax, which would not be paid by residents, but by visitors to the city.Those interested in running for a city council position can pick up packets starting June 12 from Rifle City Hall, 202 Railroad Avenue, Rifle. Petitions with the required number of signatures by registered voters must be returned by July 2.For more information, contact city clerk Wanda Nelson at 625-6265.
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