Half-cent sales tax increase proposed | TheUnion.com

Half-cent sales tax increase proposed

Three former council members submitted a sales-tax initiative to Grass Valley Friday in an effort to raise money for building the long-planned Dorsey Drive interchange and road repair.

It is the second initiative to hit the city in recent months. On Thursday, the county clerk’s office verified 847 sufficient signatures were collected for the managed growth initiative, landing it on the November ballot.

In the works for two decades, the Dorsey Drive interchange will relieve traffic congestion in the area, said Dan Landon, executive director of the Nevada County Transportation Commission.

“It’s been our high-priority regional project for some years,” Landon said.

The initiative calls for increasing sales tax by half a cent for 10 years to fund the roadway improvements. The measure also is planned for the November ballot, assuming it gains enough qualified signatures.

If the project doesn’t get rolling soon, the commission could decide to use $10 million in secured state dollars for something else, Landon said.

Friday was the first day Landon heard of the proposed initiative called the Hospital Access and Traffic Relief Act of 2008.

Former mayors DeVere Mautino and Patti Ingram joined former councilman Steve Enos to submit their notice of intent to circulate a petition to City Hall Friday.

If Dorsey Drive languishes without enough local financial support, the state could bump it back in years behind other counties that are ready to move their projects forward right now, Landon said.

The commission also has the option of taking the state’s contribution of $10 million set aside for Dorsey Drive and using it for other high priority transportation projects, such as widening on Highway 49, he said.

Two years ago, a plan called Measure T didn’t get the 67 percent voter approval needed to pass. The measure was criticized because it included plans for numerous projects including a parking garage.

In Nevada City and Truckee, sales tax measures won support to fix pot hole riddled streets.

Initiative supporters say approval will free traffic congestion at Idaho-Maryland Road and East Main Street, as well as the intersection of Brunswick Road and the Nevada City Highway.

Cutting a more direct route to the hospital could save lives, Enos said.

“A half a penny is a small amount to pay to save someone’s life,” he said.

The hospital is a departure point for life flights to other hospitals and is the only trauma center in the region.

Nevada Union High School and Sierra College students also would benefit, say initiative supporters.

Critics have said building an access road to Dorsey Drive from the highway would benefit the proposed Loma Rica development.

Enos and Ingram say the project is meant to serve the community and not subsidize developers. Mitigation fees and other review processes will still be in place for new developments, Enos said.

Now that the initiative has been submitted to the city, the city attorney will review and respond. Officials already have studied the issue during the Measure T campaign.

Proponents can begin gathering signatures. Law requires 10 percent of registered voters from the last election must be collected to put the item on November’s ballot.

Mautino has been involved with the Dorsey Drive interchange project since 1994, when she was elected the first woman Grass Valley mayor.

“We’ve been trying to do this so many years, long before I was on the council. I’d like to see it pass in my lifetime,” Mautino said.

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