Vaughn dissents on referendum issue

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By Jenny Hartley

Most of County Council agreed to appoint a committee that will determine the needs of the county and write a bond referendum question for voters in the November election.

Council passed a resolution at its April 7 meeting to form the Lancaster County capital projects sales tax commission. The vote was 6-1, with Councilman Bryan Vaughn voting against it.

The committee will be made up of three members appointed by County Council and two from Lancaster City Council. The two members from City Council will appoint one more member, who will be from either Heath Springs or Kershaw.

Council is considering a 1-cent sales tax to pay for projects, such as building a new courthouse, expanding the main library and public works facilities and improving utility lines in the county's municipalities.

A courthouse could cost at least $20 million. Because the county can't borrow money for all the projects, the public would vote on a bond package during the general election in November.

The committee will consider capital projects to be included on the ballot and make recommendations to County Council. The committee will prioritize the projects.

The recommendations will come back to council by August, so there's enough time to get them on the ballot and advertise.

Vaughn said he voted against the measure because he's concerned about the representation on the committee. Several of the representatives will be appointees either from County Council members who represent parts of the city, or appointed by City Council members, when the bulk of the county's population lives in unincorporated areas of the county.

He's also concerned about what projects will be included in the referendum – whether they'll be needed projects, or also include some "pork" projects.

"I think it needs to be a single project," Vaughn said. "Council has lost its focus with all these other projects."

The timing for a new sales tax, with families struggling to overcome layoffs and soaring gas and food prices, may also not be right, Vaughn said.

Council will name its appointees at its April 28 meeting, County Administrator Steve Willis said. He expected City Council to name its appointees at Tuesday's meeting.