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Hospital tax possible on fall ballot

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ash Flat Fire Chief Stacy Horton showed the city council preliminary drawings for a new, larger fire headquarters. The council hopes two major grants will soon be approved to allow a library to be constructed in the current fire station creating the need for a new fire house to be built.
A hospital, or at least a full-time emergency room, is recognized by many as one of Sharp County's most urgent needs.

But the latest attempt to address the county's medical problem may be a hard pill for citizens to swallow.

At the July 19 Ash Flat City Council meeting, Mayor Danny Traw informed council members of a proposal the Sharp County Hospital Foundation hopes to get on the fall ballot for citizen approval.

The proposal is for a one cent sales tax increase to be levied by four Sharp County cities, including Ash Flat.

Money raised from the increase would be used to make payments on a low interest USDA loan. The loan would be "seed" money for a new hospital, a loan that would be repaid over a 33-year period.

"I would like for you to look at this. It is one way to get a hospital here," Traw told council members. "Let me know what you think, what the people think."

Under the proposal, the cities of Ash Flat, Highland, Hardy and Cherokee Village would approve the tax.

Projections show the tax would raise just over $1.1 million a year, initially, which would be about the amount of a yearly loan repayment to USDA.

Cherokee Village does not currently have a sales tax levy, and should it approve one, it would, apparently, collect very little money since the city has few retail businesses which collect sales tax.

Noting a penny sales tax increase would push Ash Flat's sales tax to 9.375 percent.

Councilwoman Sue Ross expressed doubts. "I don't think people would go for a one cent tax," said

Ross. That is a lot to ask. People can't afford it."

Councilman Gerrell Lesley also urged caution. "We need to talk to businesses as well as individuals," said Lesley. "We don't want to do anything which will run businesses off."

In other action, the council approved a resolution authorizing the city to accept a USDA grant of up to $100,000 to be used to help develop an Ash Flat library.

The Mayor told council members the USDA had advised the city to set up a fund in case it received a grant it has applied for.

"We are not funded yet," said Traw. "But this is a real good sign."

The city is also optimistic it will receive a $180,000 Rural Development grant for the library project.

If those funds come through, the city plans to put the library in the current Ash Flat Fire Station.

During the council meeting, Fire Chief Stacy Horton displayed preliminary architect drawings for a new fire headquarters. The plans show a fire station deep enough to hold four to six fire trucks, including a ladder truck. The new building would also include living quarters for four firefighters. The current fire station has sleeping accommodations for just one.

In a decision made in executive session, the Ash Flat City Council approved a promotion for an 11 year fire department veteran. Firefighter Adam Bates, who has been working full-time since 2008, was promoted to Lieutenant.

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Money is very tight these day's.I'm on a fixed income with no relief in sight. I personally don't like the idea of paying more tax's!What about no tax increase?Give us poor folk's a break your killing us.

-- Posted by davidgeorg7 on Thu, Jul 29, 2010, at 6:15 PM

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