Voters could decide $40 million Linn County water and lands bond

If ultimately approved, money would go to help water quality, habits and trails

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County voters could be asked to weigh in this fall on issuing up to $40 million in bond debt over two decades to help the county’s waters, trails and wildlife habitats.

On Monday, the Linn County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss a proposed referendum that would put the question before voters on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

The board will not vote on the ballot question during Monday’s work session, but could during its formal meeting Wednesday.

The bond sales, if approved by at least 60 percent of the voters on that question, would raise funds “for the purposes of protecting sources of drinking water and the water quality of rivers and streams, including the Cedar and its tributaries,” a draft of the resolution states.

The bond proceeds also would be used to provide natural flood storage to reduce flooding, to improve parks, provide biking and walking trails and protect and acquire wildlife and natural areas.

The Linn County Conservation Board approved the idea during its July 25 meeting and forwarded a draft resolution to the Board of Supervisors for action.

Documents show that the national non-profit organization Trust for Public Lands commissioned a public opinion survey of Linn County voters in May that found public support for such a referendum.

According to the draft resolution, a feasibility study in April — also conducted by the Trust for Public Lands, at its own expense — found that a $40 million, 20-year general obligation bond would cost the average Linn County homeowner about $27 a year.

In 2008 in Johnson County, a similar conservation bond issue but of half the size — $20 million — won approval of about 61 percent of voters there.

On the other hand, more recently, voters in Cedar Rapids handily turned down in 2015 a proposed levy to help the local libraries.

That levy would have added about $23 a year to the property taxes of the owner of a $150,000 home. Nearly 55 percent of voters considering the issue turned it down.

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