Rec center tax on Rifle Sept. 10 municipal election ballot

Mike McKibbin
Citizen Telegram Editor

It’s up to Rifle voters to decide if they want a recreation and community center enough to pay more sales tax each time they go to the store, after City Council gave final approval to the Sept. 10 municipal election ballot question at their Monday, June 17, meeting. Council moved the meeting from its usual third Wednesday due to a Colorado Municipal League conference that day.

If approved, the measure would raise city sales taxes by 0.74 percent and generate up to $1.65 million a year to help repay a $21 million bond issue the city would use to build the Rifle Recreation and Community Center at Metro Park. Excess revenue from the tax may also help the city pay the operational and maintenance costs of the center.

A few residents spoke against the measure, including Susan Nichols of the anti-tax group Rifle No More TAXES. She responded to Councilman Randy Winkler’s statement that the move by council was only to place the measure on the ballot, it was not an endorsement of the issue.

“You are being viewed by the public that way,” Nichols said.

Councilwoman Jennifer Sanborn voiced a strong objection to a suggestion that council not place the issue before voters.

“I represent the people of Rifle, and a group of people in this city have requested we do this,” she said. “I think it would be frightening if a group of council people said no to a request to place anything on a ballot. That could be an abuse of power.”

City Attorney Jim Neu said legally, City Council could decline to place the issue on the ballot, but advised against it.

Dave Campbell of Rifle asked why the ballot question was being placed before voters without a citizens petition drive.

“It seems like whenever a citizens group wants to do something like this, they need to gather signatures,” Campbell said. “I’d just like to know why that wasn’t done here.”

Neu said petition drives to place issues on the ballot in Rifle are allowed, but not required.

Mayor Jay Miller noted that if a citizens group did a petition drive, it would have to include the ballot wording.

“If they didn’t meet the legal requirements for the wording, it could cause problems,” Miller said. “There are very technical requirements when it comes to wording a ballot question, so it became a council initiative” or referendum.

Campbell added the city had taken out a $25 million loan and received voter approval last year on a 3/4 cent sales tax for a new water treatment plant.

“Now you’re talking about another $21 million debt this year and you’re hoping taxes will cover it all,” he said. “I think you’re taking this on without hearing the true voice of Rifle citizens.”

Council voted 4-0 to place the measure on the ballot, with Councilman Rich Carter recusing himself from discussion or voting on the issue due to his architectural help for the project backers and councilmen Jonathan Rice and Alan Lambert absent.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.