PARK, SCHOOL MEASURE FAIL

November 05, 2002 11:00 pm

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE — Of Wallowa County's 4,499 registered voters, 3,565 — or 79.2 percent — turned out to pass a weed control levy, but killed a park and recreation district designed to reopen the county's only swimming pool.

Voters in Joseph also nixed the Joseph School District's request for a tax levy to help make up for the lack of state funding for schools.

District Superintendent Richard Graham said of the defeat of the proposed five-year levy he was "extremely disappointed for the kids and staff."

The levy, which went down 667 to 467, would have collected about $250,000 annually to help make up for a lack of state funding. The cost to residents would have been a maximum of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

"We will still try to minimize its effect, but certainly the opportunity to replace any programs has been lost, and the likelihood to cut any is an issue," Graham said.

Susan Gilstrap, president of the Committee for the Formation of the Wallowa County Park and Recreation District, responded to the results that showed the proposed district's levy going down 2,162 to 1,302.

"Trying to figure a way to get the swim pool back was the biggest issue and the reason we got started," Gilstrap said.

The measure would have created a permanent tax rate of 35.99 cents per $1,000 in property value.

"We are disappointed. There's absolutely no way a pool will ever happen in the county without a park and recreation district," she said.

"It will be two more years before we could put it on the ballot again," Gilstrap said about the restriction of proposed permanent levies being allowed to go to the voters only in general election years.

The City of Enterprise has not been able to rebuild its pool which has been closed the last two summers because of safety issues.

Voters did take the invasion of noxious weeds seriously enough to pass a five-year levy that will collect $85,000 per year. It will levy 19 cents per $1,000 of property value. The levy was approved 1,792 to 1,670.