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City Council debates small sales tax increase

Moving with a unanimity rarely seen at a City Council meeting, all eight aldermen agreed at Monday night’s meeting that Maumelle should look at a small sales tax increase that would be used to fund the operations of an indoor aquatic center.

The indoor pool is one of seven projects that are being considered by the city to be built with bond money generated by a millage that has already been passed and also extended.

The sales tax would be for a quarter of a cent and would generate approximately $500,000 annually, according to Mayor Mike Watson, who has previously said the operations and maintenance of an indoor pool would cost in the neighborhood of $450,000 annually.

Watson had been reluctant to estimate possible revenues for a pool, as he said he didn’t have a “crystal ball,” but changed his tune Monday night. Using figures based off Maumelle’s outdoor pool, he said the city could expect $402,000 annually with the bulk of that coming from memberships. Watson said the city would need to sell 1,000 memberships at an annual cost of $300.

Even then, the estimate revenue is still less than the estimated expenses.

The construction of the pool also would cost $7.6 million if it included an eight-lap competition pool that could also be used for water aerobics and swimming instruction and a therapy pool for those rehabbing from surgery or injury.

While not all the aldermen are in favor of moving forward with the bond extension, they did agree that the city needed an additional funding mechanism if a survey of city residents indicated that was the greatest need of the seven proposed projects.

Alderman Jan Hogue said a sales tax increase and bond proposal for the indoor pool should be viewed as a package deal as both would need to be approved for the city to move forward.

Surveys should go out late April and returned by May 15 for the Council to look at. To meet the calendar guidelines to have it on this year’s November ballot, the Council would have to pass an ordinance by Aug. 26. The last regularly scheduled meeting of the Council that month is Aug. 18.

The Council also gave its support to Watson to negotiate with real estate companies for the land needed for a proposed fire station.

The first choice near Odom Boulevard South and Club Manor Drive has come under criticism from neighbors of the project. Watson said in response he has now looked at six additional sites with three fitting the architect’s previous design.

Watson said he would begin negotiations with real estate agents and planned to have something back to the Council for its next meeting on April 21.

In other business: two ordinances passed 8-0 on the third and final reading. The first was to amend fines and fees for animal ownership and the other was regarding requirements needed for construction and remodeling.

Two other ordinances moved on to their next readings.

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