June 28--Devils Lake likely will schedule an October special election for a proposed one-half percent city sales tax increase to finance a $23.5 million project to build an events center and a separate wellness center.
That's the consensus of the steering committee after more than 60 percent of the approximately 400 likely voters who responded to a telephone survey said they would support the project.
The steering committee will meet again July 9, when it likely will recommend the Devils Lake City Commission proceed with a special election for the sales tax increase, which would end after the project is paid off in 25 years. The committee also will decide how to proceed with a marketing campaign, according to Rachel Lindstrom, executive director of Forward Devils Lake, a regional economic development organization.
"It gave us almost a breath of fresh air," she said of the 61-percent approval. "When you first roll it out, you only hear the negative, because they're the first to call you. So it gave us some excitement and encouragement to move forward."
Current plans call for a convention center to be built on the site of the soon-to-be-vacant Walmart in Devils Lake. Officials are talking with several developers about also building a privately financed hotel, which could be connected to the events/convention center.
A new Walmart Super Center, located along U.S. Highway 2 on the east side of the city, is expected to open within a few weeks.
A wellness center would be built at Lake Region State College in northwest Devils Lake, with the college leasing space for its athletic programs and applying a tuition fee for students.
The telephone survey, conducted by Odney, a North Dakota-based advertising and marketing agency, included a random mix of landlines and cell phones, according to Lindstrom.
"By all means, we're not taking it as we're guaranteed a positive vote," she said. "We have to decide on a plan to educate the voters about the project. We want to hit it hard for two to three months, to get it in front of them, so they're still excited about it at the election."
If voters approve, construction could begin next spring, with completion possibly by the end of 2016, according to Lindstrom.
Devil Lake currently has a 2-percent city sales tax, which has been raising about $2.8 million to $3 million annually in recent years, or about $1.4 million to $1.5 million for each one percent of tax, according to a recent estimate from City Hall.
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