Talent voters to decide on diesel tax

TALENT — The fate of a proposed 3-cents-per-gallon tax on diesel fuel will be decided by Talent voters in the May 16 special election. The potential resumption of big rig refueling operations in the city and a need for road repair funds prompted the City Council to place the measure on the ballot.

Interest has been shown in purchasing the former Talent Truck Stop site, which had included diesel fueling for semi-trucks. Large trucks on city roads would increase the rate of wear. Federal transportation studies show that one big rig produces road wear equivalent to 9,600 cars, city officials say.

“I support it,” said Mayor Darby Sticker. “There are inquiries for truck stops in Talent regularly. Semi-trucks are known to erode our roads. We want to be proactive in creating a revenue source to offset those costs.”

Stricker said she has personally heard no opposition to the measure. The tax is directly related to an activity that causes an impact, she added.

Tax revenues collected could be used only to construct, reconstruct, improve, repair, maintain and operate streets within city limits. The measure provides a framework for the administration, enforcement and collection of the tax.

Talent has a 3.5 mile-backlog of road maintenance needed over the next 10 years, estimated to cost $132,000 annually. The cost to chip seal streets, a less expensive option, is about $400,000 per mile.

The tax would apply to anyone selling more than 500 gallons of diesel per year. Talent has two fuel stations, one on West Valley View Road near Exit 21 and the other on Highway 99 near the Colver/Suncrest roads intersection.

State law allows enactment of both gas and diesel taxes by local governments if voters approve.

A 2-cent-per-gallon, diesel-only tax has been charged by Phoenix since November 2015 after voters approved a measure two months earlier. Between November 2015 and December 2016, the tax brought in $94,000 to city coffers. Officials say the money is needed to maintain roads that get heavy use from large trucks using the Petro Stopping Center at Exit 24.

A document on the Oregon Department of Transportation website shows 23 cities in Oregon with diesel fuel taxes (the site is apparently incomplete and does not list Phoenix). Taxes ranged from 1 cent per gallon in Woodburn to 10 cents per gallon in Portland.

Talent Community Development Director Zac Moody said he has met with a potential purchaser of the Talent Truck Stop site, but no formal application has been received. Moody said the developers have been working to obtain information they would need to submit if they go ahead with the transaction.

The proposed development would include fueling for cars and trucks and a restaurant, convenience store and trucker’s lounge in one building, said Moody. Randall Simonson of The Commercial Real Estate Co. in Medford represents the property. He could not be reached for comment but previously had said that he could not comment while potential purchasers were looking at plans.

Ballots will be mailed April 28 and must be received by 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 16.

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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