Fruita Residents Divided by Firestorm Over Proposed Sales Tax Increase

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On April 1, Fruita residents will vote on whether or not to approve a one cent sales tax increase to fund a new rec center. The firestorm over this controversial issue is leaving many residents divided.

After years of planning and debate, a new Fruita recreation center is becoming a very real possibility. This April, it could be come a reality. Fruita residents will vote on ballot issue A, which would raise the city sales tax one cent to help fund the rec center.

Some say it's the last step in giving the community something it truly needs.

"That's what this center will represent," said Mary Needham, who supports the measure. "It will represent what people want."

Others say it means taxing the city for something it can't afford.

"They're saying this beautiful facility for one cent," said Joe Miller, who is against the measure. "No, it's a lot more than that."

With less than a month before voters decide, the debate has become extremely heated.

Those who support the measure say the tax increase will mean a state of the art facility with a huge pool, a fitness center and basketball courts, as well as a senior center and a library.

"I think it's a real asset to the community," said Fruita mayor Jim Adams, a supporter of the measure. "I think anybody that votes against it is completely foolish and not planning for the future."

Opponents of the increase say the only ones who are foolish and not planning for the future are those who support it. They say that money would be better spent on roads, schools and sewer improvements.

"We don't have the population and we don't have the business," said Trinidad Silva, an opponent of the measure. "We'd be the highest taxed municipality in the Western Slope. It just doesn't make sense."

At the center of the controversy is how much it will cost to build.

"It's a twelve million dollar facility," said Terry Moss, a supporter of the increase. "We want people to understand that that's a committment by the city and that's as high as it will go."

Those in favor of the increase say efforts by opponents to tell people it will cost more than that are unfounded.

"We really feel it's unfortunate that the information is misleading and people are not being told what the facts are," said Moss.

Those against the measure say they're not the ones who are doing the misleading, and that supporters of the increase aren't telling voters the whole truth.

"Look at it -- twelve million dollars to build it, then thirty-six million by the time it's paid off -- that's the truth," said Silva. "It's a thirty-three percent sales tax increase. That's not swift boating, that's telling the truth."

Then there's the issue of what it will cost residents to use once the facility is built. Those in favor of the measure say a whole family has the option of joining for $54 a month or buying a day pass.

Those against it say Fruita residents will end up spending hundreds for a membership when they already spent millions helping to build it. They're also upset that non-Fruita residents would be allowed to join at the same costs as Fruita residents.

"I think if Fruita residents are helping to build the facility, they should get a discount," said Miller.

While people on both sides of the argument say a Fruita rec center is a good idea, they say it will up to voters as to when a project like that is feasible.

If the measure passes, the rec center will be built near the current location of the outdoor pool on North Cherry Street.