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Morning Sun
  • Voters approve new sales tax

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  • Public safety pleas for additional funding did not go unheard by Pittsburg voters, who passed a 0.5 cent sales tax to help improve the situation.
    A total of 10,521 voters cast ballots in the election, with 60.44 percent, or 767 voting "yes" and 502, or 39.56 percent voting "no."
    County Clerk Don Pyle said he would have expected a slightly higher turnout than the 12 percent of registered voters who decided the issue, but that overall the day went well.
    "I was hoping maybe as much as 15 (percent) but it didn’t quite make it there," Pyle said. "The people who did show up, a lot more showed up to say "yes" than "no."
    That was a decision that pleased city officials, who have worked throughout the past few weeks and months to convince the community of the need.
    "I’m excited," said city manager Daron Hall. "We needed to address it, and luckily the commissioners thought it was a good idea to take it to the voters."
    The sales tax will begin on Jan. 1, 2014 and will sunset Dec. 31, 2024, and Hall said the next step is to come up with step-by-step plans for addressing public safety situations.
    While the City of Pittsburg, the Pittsburg Police Department and the Pittsburg Fire Department all have overarching plans for the funding, Hall said a comprehensive plan now will be put into place.
    "The goals that we set are to get the crime rate down and to control the amount of drugs in the community," Hall said of the goals on the police side.
    He said the first priority for police, which will receive the bulk of the funding, will be hiring additional officers.
    "This is very, very exciting for the police department," agreed police chief Mendy Hulvey.
    "At the end of the day our mission has always been to make Pittsburg a safe place to live and raise a family," she said, adding that the department now will work to get new resources available for that mission as quickly as possible.
    Hulvey and Hall both said the first goal will be to make new hires to allow the city’s new minimum staffing standards to be one commander, five officers and two dispatchers, rather than the 1-3-1 minimal acceptable staffing levels that have been in place.
    After that, the goal will be to grow the city’s investigation and narcotics unit, followed by upgrading the records management system into the next era of modern technology.
    "These are exciting times for the police department," Hulvey said. "I can’t say enough to the folks out there who supported the police department."
    Page 2 of 3 - "We’re just excited to get moving," she added, and Hall agreed.
    "We’re not going to wait until January to start moving on things," Hall said. "I really want to come up with a solid plan. Let’s get them hired and let’s get them trained."
    On the fire side, Hall said the department can begin researching and making decisions about equipment.
    Fire Chief Mike Simons said he now plans to get his firefighters involved in determining the needs.
    "I’m really, truly excited," Simons said. "I can’t thank the community enough for the initiative."
    "it’s going to enable us to grow our response in the community," he said
    However, unlike the police plan to begin hiring and training now that the initiative has passed, the fire department will take a bit of to evaluate potential equipment.
    "It can be a long, drawn-out process," Simons said. "Basically, I’m going to set out committees for the different objectives we had."
    He said the process will be drawn-out, but it will allow the department time to really develop specs for bids and to research local lease-purchase opportunities.
    "All these avenues will be looked at over the next few months," Simons said.
    He said the research will be extensive enough that he anticipates each of his firefighters being needed on committees.
    "That’s something I incorporate as much as I can," Simons said. "They’re very skilled and very knowledgeable about what they do."
    Simons said research will look into a fire truck apparatus and at bunker gear and STBA breathing devices, and that the fire department is prioritizing being accountable to the public that approved the sales tax.
    "I’m looking forward to the challenge," Simons said. "It’s going to be a lot of work, but we want to make sure the funding is spent as wisely and as responsibly as possible."
    Hall said he appreciates the voter’s willingness to trust the city.
    "I’m very appreciative of the voters and their confidence in the city right now," Hall said.
    He said a dedicated group of people focused on getting the word out and making people aware of the election, and the city will continue to allow its residents to be aware and give input.
    "We’re never going to stop giving people opportunities," Hall said. "We did everything we could to make sure people were aware."
    Page 3 of 3 - He said he looks forward to the sunsetting of another 0.5 percent city sales tax in three years.
    "I’d rather look back in three years and think about how far we’ve come," Hall said.

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