Jul. 10—MEDFORD — Ahead of a months-delayed election set for next Tuesday, Grant County residents were casting their early ballots this week whether to continue paying a sales tax benefiting a dozen local first response agencies.
Early voting was held Thursday and Friday over again collecting revenue levied from a 1 cent sales tax, which county voters originally approved in 2006.
If passed Tuesday, revenue would be earmarked to help fund services of 12 of the county’s emergency response agencies: Grant County Sheriff and Grant County Emergency Services Association, Deer Creek Fire Department, Hawley FD, Lamont FD, Manchester FD, Medford FD and EMS, Nash FD, Pond Creek FD and EMS, and Wakita FD.
Voters in Nash on Tuesday will also consider a 25-year franchise agreement renewal with OG&E.
County sales tax collections would again begin Aug. 1 and last for 10 years, or until July 31, 2031. Each ambulance service will now get more shares of the levied funds because their services are countywide, Grant County Commissioner Max Hess said.
The sales tax had expired April 30 of this year, and Grant County commissioners had intended to continue the tax in an April election without disrupting revenue collection, Hess said.
However, that election was delayed twice.
In February, county commissioners instead approved the proposition in time for a May 11 special election and the Grant County Election Board’s 60-day notice deadline.
Hess said an initial resolution had not met state legislative election proposal requirements and had to be rewritten — missing the election board’s 60-day notice for an April election. Word limits had been established under state law around 2012, so the proposal had to be trimmed, he said.
As May approached, Hess said the Grant County Clerk’s office had not publicized the proposal in the county newspaper for 30 days before the election, as required by state law. A previous county election board secretary, Harvey Bush, had notified the board that the election hadn’t been properly publicized, Hess said.
County officials also learned they had omitted Deer Creek FD from the list of receiving agencies, Hess said.
He said Bush’s inquiry gave the board enough time to vote May 3 to cancel the May 11 election and order a new one for July 13, again also following election board deadlines.
“Inadvertently, it’s a good deal we got it canceled,” Hess said, or else the county would’ve had to pay for two elections and have another later to add Deer Creek.
Calls to the Grant County Clerk’s office were not returned Friday.
Hess, who lives in Manchester, is a retired firefighter who still volunteers with the town’s fire department.
He said the town used to pay annual membership fees to the state fire association, but said recently, “Money’s gotten tight.”
Since 2006, though, the county sales tax revenue has allowed the department to pay for membership itself, along with propane, trucks and facility improvements.
“For everybody out in the country — and we’re declining in population, it seems like every census — this tax has been a godsend for all the emergency departments,” he said.
Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Grant County. Anyone in line at 7 p.m. will still be able to cast a ballot.
Ewald is copy editor and city/education reporter for the Enid News & Eagle.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Send an email to email@example.com.