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Major city projects will end without city sales tax

Posted 5/13/14 (Tue)

By Stephanie Norman
Farmer Staff Writer

A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote on June 10 regarding the Watford City city sales tax may cause a domino effect - either plummeting planning for city projects or boosting financial aid for future projects. It could go either way.
For nearly 12 years, the Roughrider Fund has been graciously assisting Watford City flourish and financially boosting projects.
The one percent city sales tax charged on goods and services will sunset in September. Which means the Roughrider Committee will no longer have a purpose if there is no income to distribute to community projects.
“Without this city sales tax, there is no chance in moving forward,” Jessie Veeder Scofield, a spokesperson for the “Vote Yes” Committee, said.
The committee is proposing that the city sales tax is raised to 1½ percent, which would be in addition to the five percent North Dakota sales tax. The 1½ percent city sales tax would go into the Roughrider Fund, which would essentially be distributed to the community to financially assist building projects and accommodate growth.
“This sales tax has a great impact on many projects moving forward in Watford City,” Scofield said. “The Roughrider Fund is there for the community’s benefit and for them to approach for help. A lot of quality of life projects depend on this city sales tax. If we don’t vote ‘yes’ in June for the Home Rule Charter, then we won’t have a city sales tax at all.”
One of the many projects that could be effected by the city sales tax is the Watford City Community Events Center, which is in the design process and awaiting some funding.
The city and the Watford City Park Board, in conjunction with other community stakeholders, are planning this project. There is a potential that some financial sources may include the issuance of sales tax bonds. Repayment of the debt would be requested in the form of monthly awards from the Roughrider Committee and the city council if the 1½ percent city sales tax passes in June, according to the Watford City Economic Development Corporation.
“We are turning over every stone looking for financial support,” Justin Voll, a member of the city’s Home Rule Charter Committee, said. He mentioned the possibility of loans through the Bank of North Dakota, First International Bank & Trust and McKenzie County Bank. The state is also contributing $8 million for infrastructure needs on the site for the Community Events Center, which will be adjacent to the new Watford City High School building.
“The cost of this project will not show up on peoples’ property tax bills,” Curt Moen, Watford City City Planner, said. “We have been focusing on the industry - now it’s time to invest into our community. We’ve built miles of infrastructure. And now we need to focus on our community needs and amenities.”
The schematic design for the Community Events Center is 60 percent complete, according to Dan Miller, JLG Architect. The total building cost is projected to be roughly $55 million. But that is not including soft costs, off-set costs or the ring road around the site.
The 244,000-square foot building is to consist of two ice rinks; a basketball court with seating on all four sides to give the effect of stadium seating; a practice gym with two courts; an area for gymnastics; a lap swimming pool and a recreational pool with a zero point access and a water slide; and multiple locker rooms for men and women to accommodate multiple sports games going on at one time.
On the main floor entrance, there will be ticket booths, staff offices and some area for the University of Mary to set up classrooms and offices as well.
“Our current amenities for 1,500 people just haven’t kept up with the growth,” Voll said. “Many young moms ask what there is to do around here. This will be a great building for many people of all ages and families. If all plans are successful, all amenities within the Community Events Center could be in use at once.”
From the main roadway entry, a two story glass exterior wall will give people a peek into the pool area with a tall and colorful water slide.
Although two separate projects, the Community Events Center and the new high school building will feature similar modern exterior designs, giving the entire site a united and welcoming appearance.
“We want to attract young families,” Voll said. “We need moms and kids to move here and join their husbands who are here working. This facility will offer a lot of great things for the community. When people come to Watford City, we want them to see the building and say, ‘wow.’”
Along with the Watford City Community Center, the Roughrider Fund could also be of assistance to the Healthcare and Emergency Services - the McKenzie County Healthcare System’s replacement facility, airport improvements, affordable housing and senior housing options. There are other projects too, but these projects are the ones that the community has suggested as being priorities through numerous public forums held in past months, according to Scofield.
“These are the things that community members have said they want,” Scofield said. “These are things that will be appealing to families.”
Voll said the town is fortunate to have entities that work well together - meaning the city, school district and the park board.
“It’s such a cohesive town,” Voll said. “We want to hear what concerns people may have so we can address them and educate the public about this project and the 1½ percent city sales tax.”
In the past, the city sales tax has helped fund the city water park, golf course, children’s park, Main Street and more.
“Looking back, it’s a success story,” Voll said. “At this point, we haven’t heard any negativity about the city sales tax.”
June 10 will be the final vote to amend the Home Rule Charter to a city sales tax of 1½ percent.