During a special meeting on Monday evening, the Mount Shasta City Council reversed course and decided not to place a Community Enhancement Tax initiative on the ballot for the June election.
Councilors also voted 3-2 to table a discussion of the industrial wastewater use permit for the Crystal Geyser bottling plant.
All five Council members attended the meeting along with about 25 audience members.
After they unanimously approved a resolution at their Jan. 22 to place a Community Enhancement Tax measure before voters on the June primary ballot, four of the five Council members had a change of heart.
The cost to place the measure on the ballot could range from $3,200 to $30,000, according to a staff report, depending on how many other Sales and Use Tax initiatives were approved for the June ballot.
If placed on the ballot, the item would need to be passed by a two-thirds vote.
City staff prepared a revised ordinance that would have been considered if the Council had approved Monday night’s motion to put the tax before voters.
The revised ordinance was not considered after the motion to approve failed by a 1-4 vote, with Barbara Wagner, John Stackfleth, Kathy Morter and Paul Engstrom opposed.
The uses for the tax, as stated in the ordinance, were to “provide funding that stays within the Mount Shasta Community and cannot be seized by the State, to enrich the local quality of life and to stimulate economic development, which may fund such programs and activities as the Sisson Museum, bike, pedestrian and mountain biking trails, art, music and cultural activities, youth programs, senior programs and improvements to City services.”
Five people spoke against placing the measure on the ballot during public comments.
Roslyn McCoy said, “This really seems like it could be misused. I would rather see us have our taxes go to infrastructure, and we can donate all we want to these non-profits who are supposedly behind this tax increase. This is so broad, and it is not clear how the money will be spent.”
Former council member Geoff Harness spoke in favor of the tax, saying that it would be a good opportunity to obtain money and help with community economic development. He said, “Council will need to define how this money is spent, how it is applied for, and who can apply for it. This would be a very important task.”
Engstrom said he heard a lot of negative feedback about the tax from the public, and he believes the measure needs to be more specific. “I don’t think we are ready, right now, to put something on the ballot,” he said. “I don’t think, the way it is written right now, that it would pass in a June election.”
Stackfleth agreed with Engstrom, but Tim Stearns spoked in favor of the plan, saying Mount Shasta has been struggling with obtaining money for projects within the City that would make the City more inviting for visitors and for those that wish to live in Mount Shasta.
Stearns said, “This community enhancement and economic development tax is really a mechanism, a vehicle, to improve the quality of life in Mount Shasta for those of us that live in Mount Shasta and to make Mount Shasta more attractive to those who visit Mount Shasta, and also to give us some funds so we can actually go to the Bay Area and say, bring your business to Mount Shasta, this is not only a great place to live and work, but we have great schools in Mount Shasta, we have safe streets, we have safe neighborhoods in Mount Shasta. This is a great place.”
Mayor Kathy Morter stated that she believes the Council is being asked to create an application process that would make them “choose between which is more important – feeding hungry people or creating a trail to bring more travelers to town. I personally don’t want to make that choice.”
Crystal Geyser industrial wastewater use permit
After hearing from city manager Bruce Pope, Stearns made a motion to table the agenda item about the industrial wastewater use permit for the Crystal Geyser bottling facility, and it was seconded by Wagner. The motion passed 3-2, with Engstrom and Stackfleth opposed. Their reasons for opposition were not stated.
Pope said, “It has come to my attention, recently, that there are still some questions regarding the permit, processes, and regulations. Therefore, it would be my opinion, at this time, that this item is not ready to be heard in a public meeting. I would respectfully request that the Council consider tabling this item to a future meeting. There are people that are not here at the meeting because they believe that it may be continued to a future agenda. I think there are issues that are outstanding that the Council and public are concerned about that needs further consideration before we hear it.”