Palmyra voters will have final say on two separate sales tax issues in April election

With storm water management topping the list of priorities in Palmyra, city officials hosted the first of two town hall meetings to discuss a pair of sales tax proposals related to that issue Tuesday, Feb. 27, at Farischon Hall.

Palmyra voters approved a 1/4-cent capital improvement sales tax in 1999, and one of the issues set for the April ballot would add a 1/4-cent to amend the existing capital improvement sales tax level to 1/2-cent — applicable to the proposed city-wide storm water plan and other capital improvement projects. A second ballot issue would contain a 1/4-cent sales tax dedicated to transportation projects. Mayor Loren Graham and other city officials spoke with Palmyra citizens about how the proposed taxes would benefit the city if approved during the April election.

Graham pointed out that a previous 1/2-cent sales tax for four-lane construction on U.S. 36 and I-172 was removed Aug. 1. If the two sales tax proposals are approved in April, the overall sales tax level would be the same as it was before that tax was dissolved. The resulting annual revenue would bring in about $200,000 of additional funds for storm water projects, in addition to the $115,000 to $120,000 allocated each year for street and transportation work. The town hall meeting was the latest gathering regarding an issue that reappears for Flower City residents after heavy rainfall.

In 2017, Klingner and Associates drafted a master plan for storm water management at a cost of $25,000, and representatives from the engineering firm discussed their proposal and recorded observations from residents during a public meeting in May 2017. The project’s estimated cost is about $3.5 million, but Graham said city employees could save money by performing portions of the work — potentially bringing the cost of the project down to between $2.5 million and $2.7 million.

Council member Jeff Merkel said the sales tax would apply to everyone who purchased goods or services in Palmyra — whether they are local residents or visitors passing through from another state. Fellow council member Nathan Miller said funding storm water management through sales tax revenue would be more efficient than going after the project all at once and going into debt with a loan — pointing out that the complexity of the project could result in changes along the way. Cullan Duke, Quincy Branch Manager and Civil/Site Director for Klingner and Associates’ Quincy location, echoed that sentiment.

“That’s one of the things we’re looking at, is some storm water detention in some of those upper areas,” he said. “So if we can slow that water down, it’s going to help you downstream.”

Council member Ken Sheputis agreed.

“Once some of the areas upstream are completed, then we’ll have more concrete data as to how much it slowed it down and how big of a pipe we’re going to need further down,” he said. “That’s where the efficiency comes in, because we’re going to have the numbers after each project is completed to know what we need to do going forward.”

Graham opened the floor up for visitors to ask questions about the proposals and the storm water plan.

One visitor asked what specific projects the sales tax money would fund, and Miller said the capital improvement funds and transportation funds are earmarked specifically for those uses. If the proposals pass, Graham said storm water work would be addressed the in the same way as street projects — once the funds have accrued at a sufficient level, a section of the storm water project can begin each year. After a period of six to 10 years, the project could be finished, Graham said. Miller responded to a question regarding the possibility of future council members postponing storm water management for other work.

“The people in this room will select who spends this money,” he said. “I would tell you that if you have a council that decides it’s more important to build you sidewalks than to build you stormwater improvements, then I would change councilmen.”

City officials and residents agreed that storm water management was a top concern throughout the city, and Graham asked visitors to spread the word to friends and neighbors to attend the next town hall meeting, set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 27 at Farischon Hall.

“It’s time we started addressing this,” he said.

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