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05Township makeover mk/ UPDATE

96% of voters say no to special tax

By Heather J. Carlson

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

For Stewartville, the resounding defeat of a "swimming pool tax" was disappointing.

Township residents on Tuesday voted 3,407 to 150 to defeat the tax proposal that would have helped pay for swimming pools in the county’s cities. Voter turnout was 23 percent and 96 percent of voters cast a "no" ballot.

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"Obviously we’re saddened by the news of what we had hoped to be all of us working together for a common good or a quality of life item," said City Administrator Bill Schimmel Jr.

Voters in Stewartville approved building a $1.9 million pool last year. Under the proposed tax, the city could have applied for a $500,000 grant to help defray the project’s cost.

"Obviously, city residents have a share of their county taxes that hopefully help out township residents with maintenance items, law enforcement items and things along those lines," Schimmel said.

Paul Mittelstadt, co-chairman of the Swimming Pool Opposition Committee, said he was "overwhelmed" by the resounding no vote.

"This just goes to show you the public support we had," he said.

County commissioners voted 6 to 1 in August in favor of the tax, but opponents forced a vote on the measure with a petition.

Under the proposal, township residents would have been taxed $15 per residence annually, with some farmsteads being charged $30. The tax would have lasted a minimum of 15 years and maximum of 24 years.

All money collected would have gone into a fund from which the cities of Pine Island, Rochester, Byron, Eyota, Dover, Stewartville, Chatfield and Oronoco could have each applied for up to a $500,000 grant toward building a new pool or other recreational facility. Cities would have had to agree to spend at least double the grant amount. Money would only have been available after the facility was built.

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County Commissioner Matt Flynn had spent the past two years working on the proposal as a way to help cities replace aging community swimming pools. On Tuesday night, Flynn said he was surprised by the number of "no" votes. While he said he does not regret proposing the idea, he has no plans to bring it back given the election outcome.

"That’s a pretty definite sign that this isn’t popular," Flynn said.

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