CLINTON -- The Clinton City Council’s proposed use of increased gas tax revenues isn’t sitting well with at least one higher up in the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Clinton native Dave Rose, the current chairman of the Department of Transportation Commission, issued a Clinton Herald letter to the editor calling the council’s decision “unacceptable.” Council members voted 5-2 on Tuesday to proceed with using some of the more than $470,000 in expected new revenues to hire three street department employees. Rose said those hires skirt the “intent” of Iowa lawmakers who approved a 10-cent per gallon increase to improve road conditions.

Read the letter to the editor here: http://www.clintonherald.com/opinion/gas-tax-increase-was-meant-for-roads-and-bridges/article_2038fd7c-e1f1-11e4-8e1c-43bd2f603a0b.html

“Now that the additional tax has become a law, some communities and counties have asked their associations that represent them if they could use the funds elsewhere,” Rose wrote. “The association found a loophole, so our city management in Clinton decided to hire three people to cut grass, clean ditches and cut weeds at $77,000 per person . This is totally unacceptable. The intent of the bill was to improve our transportation system.”

Rose isn’t the only local official cautioning the council’s action. Councilmen Tom Determann and John Rowland both voted “no” on the subject during last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

Determann said he personally spoke with DOT director Paul Trambino, who echoed Rose: The tax is to be poured directly into streets.

“They (the DOT) definitely don’t agree with the (Iowa) League of Cities ruling,” Determann said. “They want this to go into roads and they want a report on how it’s spent.”

However, Mayor Mark Vulich, who was part of that same conversation as Determann, said he had a different read on Trambino’s stated intent. After running it by city attorney Pat O’Connell, Vulich’s concern was only that the city use the funds according to how the city is allowed under the law.

With O’Connell’s green light, Vulich agreed that the Clinton Streets Department should (finally) have adequate staffing.

“Our street department, our public works department has been woefully understaffed,” Vulich said. “I want to make sure we’re on solid ground with the decision.”

City Administrator Jessica Kinser drafted the proposed use of the funds, which states the three new employees would handle mowing and other duties throughout the city. This was cited as Rowland’s reason for voting “no,” although Kinser added during the meeting that the new employees would function just as any current street department employee, meaning they would handle (among other things) street repairs.

Meanwhile, Rose relayed that Trambino is aware of Clinton’s intended use for the funds and “he will make a statement regarding this issue” during the commission’s Tuesday meeting in Davenport. As it is, Rose said the dollars belong in the roads, not for new hires.

“Every one of us is paying this gas tax increase, and every one of us should demand that the money go where it was intended to go,” Rose writes. Later, he adds: “In today’s world the mistrust of government is extremely high and integrity seems to be lacking. Hiring three employees was not the intent of the law.”

The council’s vote on April 7 was originally intended to appear on this Tuesday’s regular council agenda. However, no road use fund-related agenda item is present for the upcoming meeting.

Assistant Editor Brenden West can be contacted at brendenwest@clintonherald,com

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