Voters in Black Hawk County have rejected a major Waterloo redevelopment project that was tied to a Vision Iowa grant from the state. By a 675-vote margin, voters turned down a one-cent local option sales tax extension that would have paid for half of the Riverfront Renaissance project. Revenue from the tax would have matched a $16 million Vision Iowa grant, with other funding coming from the county, private investors and other sources. Major portions of the $72.5 million project included a recreation complex and fitness center, pedestrian mall and a riverside amphitheatre, and a riverwalk loop along the Cedar River. Forty-seven-percent of the county’s eligible voters went to the polls on Tuesday. Their rejection of the measure means other cities can now apply for Waterloo’s Vision Iowa money. Fifty-one percent voted against the proposal, 49-percent for it. Waterloo mayor John Rooff says in Waterloo, $7 million would have been split each year between street improvements and projects tied to the city’s Riverfront Renaissance plan. He says residents have made their decision and it’s time to move forward. Bill Bartels, who spearheaded the opposition “right-to-know” campaign, says the election was only about taxes. The 81-year-old Bartels says voters said “no” to taxes, and the collective goal now should be to cut government spending until Waterloo’s the lowest-taxed big city in the state instead of the highest.
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