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DeKalb city staff say road repair tax necessary because Market Square retailers ignore potholes

DeKALB – Mayor Jerry Smith said he is “disappointed’ that retailers in Market Square Shopping Center don’t adequately take care of the side roads they’re responsible for, instead leaving the city to find creative ways to pay pothole remediation.

“I’m really disappointed,” Smith said. “We want to be as business-friendly as we possibly can but…what can we do? This is almost like a last resort. We don’t want to but we may have to.”

The proposed solution unanimously approved by council Monday is a special service tax on 18 retailers such as Lowe’s and Walmart in DeKalb’s biggest shopping center, to better address surrounding road issues and the ever-present pothole problem in the area. Though it’s not yet finalized, the city hopes representatives from the retailers will show up to a public hearing set for Feb. 24 to give feedback on the tax, though their support is not necessary to pass it into policy. Nicklas said the only way the tax would be shut down is if more than 51% of the retailers opposed it.

Smith spoke at Monday’s council meeting, where city council approved a proposed new tax. The roads are privately-owned, and City Manager Bill Nicklas said consistent efforts to encourage the business owners to fill potholes and fix roads were ignored. In response, he’s proposing a new tax on the businesses which the city would use to hire road crews to fill the potholes themselves.

Nicklas said a contract with the businesses and city signed long ago – a reciprocal easement agreement – dictated that business owners are responsible for road upkeep.

“Somewhere along the way, some details fell out as new retailers came in,” Nicklas said. “We found out last year when the potholes were becoming gaping holes and starting to eat up small vehicles and lots of tires, and people were angry with the city, not knowing that we didn’t have responsibility for it.”

In response, Nicklas said he sent a letter to the retailers in early 2019, which did not receive any response. He tried again a while later, including pictures of certain potholes and roads, and while some retailers responded with action, some did not.

To raise the $145,000 estimated to be necessary for pothole repairs in 2020 (and the $204,700 annual estimate in subsequent years), the city would impose a tax of $1.14 per $100 of EAV, and raise that to $2.34 after the first year, documents show.

Ward 3 Alderman Tracy Smith, who works with TransVAC, said he’s also concerned ongoing road neglect could affect city buses.

“Some of our heavier buses go down there,” Tracy Smith said. “I don’t know if it’s safe for them to go down there anymore, and I would hate to be in a position where we can’t service that area with some of our heavier equipment. It looks bad, so I am 100% behind this.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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