Falls levy dead -- for now

FALLS CITY -- Voters in Falls City will not have a chance to decide on a tax levy to buy property north of the falls on the Little Luckiamute River this November after all.

FALLS CITY -- Voters in Falls City will not have a chance to decide on a tax levy to buy property north of the falls on the Little Luckiamute River this November after all.

City and county officials said last week that the city's attempt to put a $150,000, five-year local option bond levy before voters failed due to an incomplete legal notice advertising the levy's inclusion in the November general election.

The city did not have time to run a complete advertisement before the Sept. 2 deadline to qualify for the ballot.

Falls City City Administrator Gian Paolo Mammone said the oversight was due to the city not giving itself enough time to comply with deadlines.

"We had committed ourselves to an unrealistic timeline that limited the opportunity for comprehensive review of the process and obviously opened the door for mistakes," Mammone said in a press release.

On Aug. 10 the City Council approved bringing the issue to voters in the form of a local option bond levy. The tax revenue would have been used to pay back bonds acquired to buy the north side access from property owner Judith Bent.

With approval to proceed given in August, the city had less than a month to complete all requirements for the levy to qualify for the ballot.

Polk County Clerk Val Unger said the published notice failed to mention the process and deadline for filing petitions for ballot title review, and therefore was not considered proper notice.

The Little Luckiamute Alliance to Save the Falls, a group working to regain access to the north side of the falls, brought the levy proposal to the council in July, seeking the city's support.

The city agreed to put the proposal before voters, but Mammone said the council should have allowed itself and city staff more time to complete requirements.

"We understand it's an emotional issue," Mammone said. "But if you try to push it too fast, you open yourself up to making mistakes."

Alliance spokesman Dennis Sickles said on Sept. 2 that he didn't want to comment on the situation until he had more information about what had happened.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed," he said.

Mammone said the City Council will discuss the matter further at its Tuesday, Sept. 14 meeting.

The city has four opportunities to place the levy on the ballot in 2011: March, May, September and November.

"This is an opportunity for the city and the council to become more responsible," Mammone said.

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