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Letter: Paving the way for better city

As Grand Forks residents and local business leaders, we are committed to the future of our community. It is our civic duty to always look toward our future and ensure our local policies, regulations and taxes reflect our immediate needs while helping us build the community we want for the next generation.

When surveying our community today, one of the most important needs we see is improved streets.

Streets are the lifelines — the arteries — of our city. They connect neighborhoods, allow people to get to work, to school, to entertainment; they provide opportunities for everything from commerce to exercise.

Without quality streets, our neighborhoods, business developments and school areas deteriorate. We must ensure this doesn't happen to Grand Forks.

The second thing we must address as a community is funding our newly-built water treatment plant.

There is no question that building the facility was a must to continue the city's commitment to clean, available water for residential and commercial use. However, we must also deal with its financial reality.

These two priorities are why The Chamber of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, and the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation support the sales tax initiative the city of Grand Forks placed on the ballot for this Nov. 7. We strongly encourage everyone in the community to vote "yes."

Today, the city estimates we currently face a $16 million deficit for needed road repair and improvement.

This deficit will only grow in coming years if we don't act. We are also facing a $75 million bill for the new water treatment plant. To address these obligations, the city has put forward a measure to implement a half-cent sales tax over the course of the next 20 years. It is estimated that the half-cent sales tax will generate $5 million per year with 60 percent going to street improvements and the remaining 40 percent to help pay for the water treatment plant.

We support this measure because:

-Using a sales tax to help pay for the new water treatment plant will reduce our utility rates and keep our city competitive in attracting and retaining jobs and industry.

-Using a sales tax to pay for street improvements will accelerate the city's ability to fund needed improvements and improve public safety and quality of life.

-Using a sales tax takes pressure off local special assessments and property taxes, and ensures that the cost is shared by all people who visit, live, work or play in our community.

So often in discussions about the future everyone is quick to identify problems, but defining solutions is much harder. The solution we support is fair, efficient and the least burdensome, while providing the funding Grand Forks truly needs. That's why we are very proud to support a positive, equitable and effective solution to address Grand Forks' need for street improvements and paying for our new water treatment plant.

The Chamber and the Grand Forks Region EDC fully support the city's sales tax measure and encourage all area voters to do the same. Please visit for more information.

Rachel Gornowicz is president of Countrywide Sanitation Company. Matt Walkowiak is owner/operator of the Ground Round and The Chamber's board chair. Together, they are co-chairs of the Vote Yes on November 7 Initiative.