Union officials and parks department staff made an effort to squelch some rumors about the June ballot measure proposing a sales tax to fund the Veterans Memorial Park.
Mayor Mike Livengood said at a park advisory board meeting last week that there have been implications on social networking sites that charge the city with attempts to limit voter turnout.
There will be only one polling place for all wards, Union Municipal Auditorium, when Union residents vote on June 5. Some have said that was done to intentionally deter voters from showing up at the polls.
According to City Administrator Russell Rost, that is not true. The city and the Franklin County election authority agreed to hold the election at one polling place to cut down on the number of election judges and costs.
“They expect a low turnout and if they don’t hire as many judges, we will save about $1,200,” Rost said.
The county requested that there be one polling place and city leaders agreed. It has been stated in more than one public meeting that there would be one polling location and city staff and aldermen agreed to make the efforts to inform residents through Missourian articles, notifications on utility bills, and by publishing a quarterly city newsletter one month early in order to get the information to residents before the election.
A tax initiative will appear on the ballot as “Proposition Park” and will include a new one-half cent sales tax for the park. The tax would be reduced to a one-quarter cent sales tax after the bonds sold to fund the project mature, or after 20 years.
Alderman Dustin Bailey noted that some are saying that what the city is doing is underhanded.
“They said we are trying to stack the deck,” Bailey said.
“There are even rumors that voting times have changed,” Rost added.
According to Jane Luechtefeld with the Franklin County Clerk’s office, the election times will be from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., as in any other election. She noted that if polls would be open in all four wards, it would require the city hire 16 election judges instead of eight and would require “poll rent” and two facilities that are not within taxing entities.
Livengood further explained that the city did not choose the name “Veterans Memorial Park” to attract voters.
He said that the city was approached by Mark Vincent, among other veterans, who are involved in a grassroots organization called the “Foundation to Honor Missouri Disabled Veterans” to work toward the better of veterans throughout this area.
The organization also requested an area at the front entrance of the proposed park for a memorial.
“They approached me with this name,” said Livengood. “I told them that they had to take it in front of the board of aldermen.”
The group of veterans, and others, are organizing to help design the memorial and raise funds to build it. The memorial would be placed at the entrance of the proposed east park and sports complex that would be funded if a sales tax is approved.
Rost said that there also has been accusations that he purchased the parkland without the authorization of the board of aldermen. He noted that purchases more than $3,999 must have the approval of the board and can’t be made on just his authority.
He did note that the board agreed to purchase the land up-front with cash reserves instead of paying interest for the property. Rost said that was his recommendation.
The city purchased 43.8 acres of land earmarked for a park off Progress Parkway south of Highway 50.
Planners have maintained the “balance” of active and passive recreation area, including a “loop trail” intertwined with smaller trails.
Marshlands and water sources would be utilized as a conservation area, or “passive” park. There also will be picnic areas and shelters.
There also would be playgrounds, a maintenance shed, lakes or ponds, pavilions and other amenities.
Plans call for two soccer fields, a football field, and a large tournament baseball/softball field and four smaller fields.