AMERICAN FORK Residents turned out Tuesday to voice their concerns to the City Council regarding upcoming bond elections that, if passed, would be used to finance approximately $18.6 million in repairs and additions to roads, parks, trails and city open space.
American Fork residents will have the opportunity to vote for each bond individually, allowing them to pick and choose which of the five bonds they feel are important and worth taxpayers' money. If all five are approved, annual property taxes would increase $159.50 on a home worth $240,000, while business property worth the same amount would increase $290.50.
"These are all items that are beneficial to the city and they all have significant merit," Mayor Heber Thompson told citizens who attended the public hearing. "Our feeling was that there is significant pressure on the citizens and families due to the economy and that it should be up to you to decide what is beneficial. It is not that we in some casual way put together some bonds. These are items that are part of long-term needs and are all of value to the city."
The first proposed bond would cost $4.3 million and would be used to expand and improve several roads throughout the city. The second bond of $3.85 million would go toward improvements of Art Dye Park, as well as the construction of Art Dye Trail, which also has matching federal funds. The third bond of $3.1 million would be used to acquire additional property at the city cemetery as well as other improvements to the cemetery area. The fourth bond would be used for several trails and open space throughout the city and would cost approximately $2.3 million.
The fifth bond was the one that drew the most attention from residents during the hearing. This bond would go toward street improvements for 560 West, including opening the railroad crossing and restructuring several other roads. The specifics of opening that crossing had some upset, but the $5 million price tag drew even more concern from those in the meeting.
"As a new breadwinner, I have become more aware of the sacred nature of tax funds, especially on the federal level, where they take a lot," American Fork resident Eric Nelson told the council after questioning the amounts of money factored for all the projects. "The projects definitely have merit, but that is only one aspect of it. The other is how wisely the money is spent in that project."
Another issue in the debate is the fact that some of the projects have federal matching funds that would be lost if the city doesn't go forward with the plans. Councilwoman Sherry Kramer told residents that if the city does not go through with some of those projects, it would face the possibility of being blacklisted from future federal grants.The city promised to make many of the studies about the use of the particular roads that will be repaired available to citizens that are interested, and there will be another town meeting on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. at City Hall to give more time for residents to discuss the issues. The voting on bonds will take place Nov. 4 as part of the general election.
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