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      Wapello County votes to extend local option sales tax

      Wapello County voters decided Tuesday to approve the extension of the local option sales tax, with 63% of the vote a positive approval.

      The tax, which is currently in place, is designated towards property tax relief and street repair and maintenance. Now that the tax is extended until 2025, the city of Ottumwa and the surrounding municipalities can continue to repair four miles of roads a year. Without the sales tax renewal, road repair across the county would have been cut significantly, especially those projects that depend on funds from the local option sales tax.

      "That's critical because there's the expanded residential street repair program, that's solely funded by local options sales tax and would not happen without it," said Joe Helfenberger, Ottumwa City Administrator. "That program alone is $850,000 a year towards residential street repair. With all these other emergencies we have and main drags that need to be done, that program is just critical to helping take care of some of the neighborhoods, at least the worst streets."

      Helfenberger said now that the sales tax is passed, the city can concentrate on which areas to target next and which repairs are most crucial.

      The only municipality in Wapello County to not approve the measure was Eldon, and Helfenberger said they will have the opportunity to re-vote and possibly pass the tax within the next few years.