By SEAN ROWLEY
Hulbert residents will soon decide whether to raise the sales tax there by an another penny on every dollar.
During Thursday’s meeting, the Hulbert Town Council voted to adjust Section 7 of city ordinance to allow collection of sales tax at an additional 1 percent, and voted for a notice of election. Trustees also approved the resolution’s emergency clause and ask voters to approve the tax increase.
Under Oklahoma law, municipalities may not increase sales tax without the approval of voters. The notice of election begins the process of setting a date when citizens will cast ballots.
During discussion, trustees Kenneth Fore, Shirley Teague and George Truitt all said conversation with citizens about a possible sales tax increase had been positive.
Teague and Truitt said their discussions implied the money would be earmarked for parks, recreation, and expenses related to the new Hulbert Volunteer Fire Department building. But municipal clerk Leona Welch said legal counsel had suggested collections be placed in the general fund.
“The attorney is telling us we should use that money on other projects when these are finished, but I haven’t been telling people that,” Truitt said. “I would like something entered in the minutes that our intent is to use that money on the parks at this time - to build the splash pad - and help pay the note on the fire department building.”
Fore said any extra collections could still be spent on the parks.
“Once that parks and recreation work is completed, it will still need maintenance and upkeep,” he said.
The trustees also accepted a Rural Economic Action Plan grant award of $25,000, to be used for a water intake relocation project and other water utility needs.
Teague, citing a previous award of $35,000, asked the status of the water intake project, to which Truitt replied it was in the preliminary stages.
Teague expressed a concern that unspent grants could hinder further municipal grant requests, and Welch asked Truitt if the grant could be reallocated to shorter-term projects to ensure it is expended.
“I don’t see how it would be a problem to reallocate the REAP grant if we are afraid it still won’t be spent in two or three years,” Truitt said.
“We will need to go back before the [Eastern Oklahoma Development District] board and they will need to improve the change.”
During unscheduled public appearances, the trustees heard from Mike Shade, who aired a complaint about rental properties within the city that are in disrepair and strewn with debris.
Trustee Shirley Teague said letters sent to offending landlords and homeowners had produced some results, and Trustee George Truitt said the next step would be postings on property.
“Writing letters won’t do anything, and I don’t believe anything will happen until you either embarrass them or get in their pockets [with fines],” said Shade, who thanked the trustees for hearing his grievance.
The trustees also heard the fire and police reports, and expressed concern that the fire department was behind on its paperwork.
The next regular meeting of the Hulbert trustees is Thursday, Jan. 9, at 6 p.m. in the Hulbert Town Hall building.