VOTERS approve bond issues, sales tax increases

Wednesday, August 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Johnston County residents approved a $1.65 million bond issue Tuesday that will fund the construction and operation of a new jail, while Norman residents voted to upgrade their city's sewer system.

The present jail in Tishomingo, which is leased from the Chickasaw Nation, has been cited for health code violations, including inmate overcrowding, inadequate staffing and unsafe electrical conditions.

State Attorney General Drew Edmondson in May filed a lawsuit asking that the jail be permanently closed because of the deficiencies. A judge has not ruled on the matter.

The new 12,000-square foot facility will have 49 beds. The bond money will be coupled with $300,000 the county has accrued from an existing quarter-cent sales tax approved for jail construction.

Property taxes will increase $18.64 annually on a $35,000 home. The quarter-cent sales tax approved in Tuesday's election will raise about $65,000 a year to run the jail.

Johnston County Election Board Secretary Janis Stewart said turnout was great for a countywide election with just two questions. All precincts carried both questions, she said.

``Possible closing of the jail became a real issue here,'' Stewart said. ``People did realize that it could happen.''

In other elections, Norman voters approved a sales tax increase and two new fees that will pay to replace sewer lines and expand its wastewater collection system.

Voters approved a five-year, half-cent sales tax increase on a 7,601 (77 percent) to 2,214 (23 percent) vote. The increase is expected to raise $26 million for sewer improvements. The approval means a moratorium on new development plats imposed one year ago due to overloaded lines can be lifted.

About 70 percent of Norman residents approved a $5-a-month fee for sewer line maintenance. The vote was 6,831 (69.73 percent) to 2,966 (30.27 percent). It is expected to raise about $2.3 million a year.

The third measure is a building fee on new residential and commercial construction. That one was approved 7,855 (80 percent) to 1,950 (20 percent). The fee will help expand the wastewater collection and treatment systems as needed to accommodate growth.

``It's absolutely incredible,'' Mayor Ron Henderson said. ``This is the happiest day I've ever experienced in the 10-plus years I've been involved in city government.''

The measures become effective Oct. 1 and will raise Norman's tax rate to 8 percent.

Norman's city charter requires that utility rate increases must be approved by a majority of voters.

In northern Oklahoma, voters chose Republican Dale DeWitt to fill the vacant District 38 legislative seat. DeWitt received 64 percent of the votes cast to 36 percent for Democrat Doug Eisenhauer.

DeWitt will serve the remaining year of Jim Reese's two-year term. Reese quit in May to head the Oklahoma office of the Farmer Services Agency.

District 38 includes all of Alfalfa and Grant counties and part of Kay County.

In southeastern Oklahoma, Wilburton voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for sewer improvements, while residents in Custer, Beckham and Kiowa counties approved enhanced 911 emergency systems.

In Krebs, voters approved a 4 percent tax on rooms at the community's only motel.