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Getting voters to vote is crucial to pass park tax, St. Robert leaders say
Getting voters to vote is crucial to pass park tax, St. Robert leaders say

St. Robert city officials hope to open a $3.8 million aquatic facility by September 2010
SAINT ROBERT, Mo. (July 3, 2009) — Elections in St. Robert usually have the lowest turnout in the entire county, with turnout rates as low as 3 percent in some cases. Special elections usually draw few voters in any case, and in the April 2009 St. Robert city council elections when Waynesville R-VI School Board members were also on the ballot, only 274 people showed up to vote — 4.18 percent of those registered, or less than half of the countywide average turnout of 11.14 percent.

That means only about a hundred people could decide the future of a $475,000 annual tax increase that would be paid not only by St. Robert residents but also by everyone from other areas shopping in St. Robert.

Frank Herbert, who serves on the St. Robert Planning and Zoning Commission, said at a Monday evening public hearing on the proposed pool tax that educating voters is crucial and thanked City Administrator Alan Clark for his efforts.

“We as citizens need to make every effort to get this tax passed. I recently took the mayor and Alan to a meeting where it was indicated how dangerous it is that some of our youngsters are out swimming in the Roubidoux because they have no place to go,” Herbert said. “My principal concern is we have one gentleman indicate that he fishes in the Roubidoux and said there are snakes and everything out there and these youngsters are jumping in the water constantly.”

Clark cautioned that there are legal limits to what city officials can do to promote the tax.

“I’m not here to sway you one way or another; I’m giving you information, giving you background,” Clark said. “That is what we do up here. We listen to you, and we don’t listen at you, because if I’m listening at you I’m not paying attention to you.”

Resident Martel Goldman wanted more information.

“What are we doing to get the message out other than sending it in the paper?” Goldman said. “Most people don’t even read it.”

Others suggested contacting the Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office to see if the pool tax can be promoted on the marquee display board inside the post’s front gate on Missouri Avenue.

City Attorney Kevin Hillman noted that information about the park vote has been placed on the St. Robert city-run website and he’s also created a special section about the tax vote on the Pulaski County Web. Hillman said that a group of citizens known as the Citizens for Better Parks has been established and while he can’t promote the tax as a city employee on city time, individuals can do that on their own.

That citizens’ group is chaired by Gene Newkirk, a longtime city resident and self-employed plumber who also serves on the city council. Newkirk said the group plans an aggressive campaign to encourage votes for the pool project.

Herbert said he’s glad to hear that.

“I grew up in Louisiana politics where they get out and tap dance and everything else,” Herbert said.

If approved by voters in a special Aug. 4 election at the St. Robert Community Center, a new quarter-cent sales tax would be imposed on most purchases in the St. Robert city limits, while an existing personal property tax on residents would be eliminated. The result is that people living in other cities who shop at Wal-Mart or other stores in St. Robert will be paying to build, expand and maintain the St. Robert park system.

Those who want to vote must register 5 p.m. on July 8. Absentee voting began on June 23 and runs until 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 3, the day before the election; only residents of the city of St. Robert are allowed to vote.

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