The ⅞ cent sales tax will take effect in January and is expected to raise $6 million to pay for improvements to the Kemper campus before it expires after 2025.

Boonville voters approved a temporary sales tax increase by a vote of 459-303 on Tuesday.

The ⅞ cent sales tax will take effect in January and is expected to raise $6 million to pay for improvements to the Kemper campus before it expires after 2025. The increase will bring Boonville’s sales tax rate up to 9.1 percent, and shoppers will pay an additional $0.87 for every $100 they spend in the city limit. The sales tax will not be renewed after it expires in 5 years, it’s backers have said.

Mary Pat Abele, who serves on the Boonslick Regional Library Board of Directors and co-chaired the steering committee advocating for the tax increase, said she was thrilled for what it means for the library in Boonville.

“I’m proud to be a member of this community and proud of what we can accomplish,” she said.

After K Barracks is demolished later this year, the rubble will be used as fill to build a 32-space parking lot behind the Library Learning Center on the Kemper campus at an estimated cost of $500,000. That will allow the Boonville library to move from its location on Main Street to the more spacious Library Learning Center.

Shortly before it closed, Kemper Military Academy reinforced the floors of the building so they could hold a library’s worth of books, and the city installed elevators and accessible entrances before it rented the building to State Fair Community College. The college recently consolidated into one building, leaving a ready-made library that just needed a parking lot.

There are some small renovations that could be done to the library while the parking lot is constructed behind it, Abele said. The next step is to identify any changes that have to be made and plan out how the space will be used, she said.

Of the $6 million the sales tax is expected to raise, $5 million will go towards renovating and expanding the YMCA. Johnson Field House, the city-owned building occupied by the YMCA, will be renovated at a cost of $1 million. Academic Hall, the vacant building adjacent to the field house, will be renovated, expanded and connected to the field house at a cost of $4 million.

Matt Schneringer, CEO of the Boonslick Heartland YMCA and another co-chair of the sales tax’s steering committee, said he was pleased with the results and thankful to the community of Boonville for their support.

“This is going to go a long way towards providing the programs the community needs heading into the future,” he said.

Academic Hall would hold classrooms, activity space, gym space and kitchen facilities. Currently, the only air-conditioned space in the YMCA is the children’s area near the exercise machines. The smaller and easier to cool Academic Hall would provide more space that children could use in the summer.

The expansion will also allow the YMCA to serve more children. The state only allows child care providers to serve a certain number of children per square foot, and the YMCA is capped at 75 children in its current space.

Abele was thankful to the people of Boonville for their support, and to everybody who worked to campaign for the sales tax. She knows not everyone voted for the increase, but said that everyone will benefit from the projects it will fund.

Abele had a conversation with City Administrator Irl Tessendorf about the next steps after the votes were counted on Tuesday night. The city isn’t going to borrow any money upfront to pay for the projects like it has for previous major projects like the Project Pele soccer complex.

The city will pay for the projects as it collects revenue from the sales tax, so none of the projects will start immediately. It could be several years before any of the projects are completed, Schneringer said.

The city, library and YMCA will work to develop a detailed plan for all the projects to make sure the money is spent wisely, Abele said. The city is going to have a lot of input into the timeline of projects, and everyone involved is going to do their due diligence to make sure the people’s money is spent the right way and make sure the community is updated on the progress, Schneringer said.

No more uncontested municipal elections in Blackwater

Five people voted on Blackwater’s ballot question on Tuesday, and all five voted in favor of it.

The measure allows the City of Blackwater to not hold a municipal election if there is no more than one person running for each position in the election.

State law allows cities with fewer than 2,000 residents to forego uncontested municipal elections if voters approve of the plan. Voters in Otterville and Pilot Grove both approved the same measure in 2015, while Prairie Home voters rejected it that same year.

The measure has to be re-approved every 5 years, so Blackwater voters will have another chance to decide on the issue in 2024.

bcrowley@gatehousemedia.com