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WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 03, 2011, 08:15 PM

GF Residents Vote Down Library Sales Tax by Nearly 1,800 Votes

Grand Forks residents have voted down a proposed one percent sales tax increase to help pay for a new library. The tax, which would have raised $20.8 million over three years or until that amount was reached, was a main concern many "no" voters had.

By: WDAZ Staff Report, WDAZ

Grand Forks residents have voted down a proposed one percent sales tax increase to help pay for a new library.

With 26 out of 26 precincts reporting, there were 2,741 votes for the tax and 4,535 against. That makes 60.4 percent against the tax, and 39.6 percent for. It's also a 1,794 vote difference.

These vote totals include absentee ballots.

All wards in Grand Forks voted against the tax.

In ward 1, there were 212 yes votes and 343 no votes.

In ward 2, there were 271 yes votes and 478 no votes.

In ward 3, there were 322 yes votes and 428 no votes.

In ward 4, there were 543 yes votes and 869 no votes.

In ward 5, there were 611 yes votes and 1023 no votes.

In ward 6, there were 398 yes votes and 755 no votes.

In ward 7, there were 383 yes votes and 639 no votes.

There were 7,278 votes cast.

The tax, which would have raised $20.8 million over three years or until that amount was reached, was a main concern many "no" voters had.

The discussion over the library was heated at times over the past few months, with prominent library supporters and opponents both receiving less-than-friendly phone calls on the topic.

A "vote no" yard sign campaign sprung up, with library supporters responding with their own signs.

City council member Terry Bjerke was one of the most outspoken opponents for the tax and new library, calling the project an "extravagance." Bjerke said the tax will only lead to more taxes.

"A bigger building with more people means more operational costs, which means a property tax increase. That is how the building is maintained," Bjerke said earlier. "Most people I know don't blow up their house after 40 years. They maintain."

Library supporters cite the current location's cramped spaces and lack of handicap accessibility as part of the need for a new building.

The library earlier this year had the first formal complaint issued regarding the lack of accessibility. Molly MacBride, a post-quadriplegic, struggled to fit into the cramped handicap stall, which was ADA-compliant when the library was built, but now is not.

"My biggest concern is that I believe in equality for both the disabled and the abled. I do realize the cost involved. That's why I called the library. I made it clear, I don't expect an immediate response. They don't have to feel like they have to jerry-rig it to get it corrected," McBride said in a telephone interview.

It is unclear what the next step is for updates to the current site or a whole new building altogether. A property tax hike could be used to raise the money.

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