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Local News

June 27, 2013

Council hears suggestions on street fixes

DUNCAN — DUNCAN – The Duncan City Council made it more evident Wednesday night that a May 14 election in which voters defeated a property tax increase to fund street improvements would not be the final say.

 City Manager Jim Frieda and council members held a “workshop” meeting to discuss options of moving forward. About 20 people attended – some offering comments and suggestions.

 No decisions on the next step were to be made, but doing nothing does not appear to be an option. Some council members suggested before the May 14 vote that if it failed, the city would simply make do with deteriorating streets the best it could.

 But Mayor Gene Brown said that was not in the cards.

 “The problem is still there. It gets worse,” he said. “Whatever we come up with we need support from the public. We have to get out of the mindset of ‘If it’s not my street, I’m against it.’ If you live in Duncan, it’s your street.”

 By an 889-618 vote, residents rejected a proposed $9 million bond issue to be funded with property taxes. Less than 10 percent of registered voters in the city turned out for the May 14 election.

 The plan called for repairing and renovating 255 sections of streets in Duncan, with work to be done over three years and the bond paid off in 10 years. Most of the work was to be patching, sealing and resurfacing with the goal of bringing those streets into good condition for the next 10 to 15 years.

 The three options the council will consider now are another general obligation bond to be paid for with property taxes, a half-cent increase in the sales tax or a revenue bond to be funded with existing tax revenue streams.

 Increasing property taxes or sales taxes would require another vote of the people, with at least 50 percent plus one vote in favor for it to pass. The council could vote on its own to borrow money through a revenue bond – something it did after voters rejected tax-increase proposals for streets in 2007.

 A half-cent increase in the sales tax would bring the rate paid in Duncan to 9.2 percent – up from 8.7 percent now.

 Several people offered suggestions to the council Wednesday.

 Peggy Davenport, an insurance agent in town, said the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation – which takes in money from a half-cent portion of the sales tax in Duncan – brought in $2 million last year.

  It has taken in more than $25 million in sales taxes since its inception in 1994 and as of Dec. 31 had a balance of about $8.67 million.

 She suggested that it be asked to pay for some of the street repairs, saying those were “part of the infrastructure” that makes the city attractive.

 Frieda said the council has not asked that the DEADF contribute to any street plan.

 Chris Deal, president of the Duncan Chamber of Commerce, said raising the sales tax to 9.2 percent would put the rate in Duncan above both Lawton and Wichita Falls, Texas.

 Many merchants have balked at such an increase, saying it would hurt sales in Duncan.

 Deal said from fielding numerous calls on the street issue, the council should find ways of engaging the public more on the issue, perhaps through polls or surveys. The next effort, he said, truly needed to be a grass-roots exercise.

 He also said there was a perception that the 255 street sections slated for improvements in the plan were chosen “helter skelter.” He said he knows great thought went into the streets chosen, but that was not the perception among some in the public.

 Harriet Mitchell of Duncan said something had to be done.

 “We all know there is a big need to do something, it’s plain and simple,” she said.

 But if something is done, she said there needed to be stricter codes and enforcement on prohibiting large trucks from using and tearing up residential streets.

 Frieda told he would look into that issue beginning Thursday and was pleased people turned out for the meeting.

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