Members split on parks tax reform

Group dismisses immediate need for jail expansion

No new jail facility is needed, but a reallocation of the parks tax may be in order. This is the basic recommendation the remaining members of the Platte County Commission-appointed jail committee presented Monday after weeks of often-contentious discussion. Committee member Dagmar Wood presented the report at the commission’s regular administrative, bringing the committee’s work to a close a month early. In May, the commission appointed the nine-member committee to study the needs of the county’s detention facilities and prosecutorial and judicial offices. The committee was scheduled to submit its report in September. “One of the reasons we decided to present our report a month early was to give the Commission time to review our recommendations,” Wood said. The report includes six areas of unanimous agreement amongst the committee members, and a controversial recommendation to reallocate a portion of the existing one-half cent sales tax for parks and recreation. The report included suggested ballot language for two measures to take to voters in November: one would repeal a portion of the tax and one would re-dedicate that portion to law enforcement, pending approval of the repeal. The deadline to place a measure on the November ballot is Aug. 26. “This was the opinion of the majority of the members of the jail committee, but it was something the members felt like the Commission should decide,” Wood said. The result of the final committee vote was in question during the presentation. Wood said she and committee members Jacque Cox, Jeff Watson and Susan Huffman voted for reallocation of the parks tax. Members Paul Dobbie and Galen Dean, who committee chair James Roberts erroneously reported in mid-July had resigned, voted against the parks tax reallocation. Roberts himself resigned from the committee July 28 — the night the vote was cast — and member Cory Ball sent second district commissioner Duane Soper an email Aug. 3 questioning the committee’s final report. Soper read Ball’s email into the public record. “Unfortunately, the good work of the committee was hijacked by political and/or personal agendas,” Ball said in the e-mail. “I think that is evident in the committee’s report, specifically the discussion on restructuring the parks sales tax.” Ball said he was opposed to the park sales tax reallocation and called Huffman’s reported yes vote into question. Soper said his own attempts to contact Huffman had so far been unsuccessful. Due to a family emergency, Huffman missed some recent meetings and was out of town. “If the committee could not reach an agreement on funding options then why does the report contain ballot language and other information on restructure of park tax?” Ball said. “(It) seems odd. Or maybe it is someone’s efforts to inject personal agenda into the work of the committee?” Presiding commissioner Jason Brown questioned the apparent discrepancy in who voted and what those votes were. Watson, who was designated as the new committee spokesman, said that after the report was drafted it was sent out to committee members for approval. Roberts and then Ball disengaged from the committee, he said. “When somebody says they’re done and walks out of the meeting then I think they’re done,” Watson said. The committee received bad information from the beginning, Watson said, and that it had taken time to work through that. In fact, a portion of the committee’s report suggested the county completely disregard the Goldberg Group’s jail feasibility study completed last year.

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