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Rains return, close street -- News Roundup

A public works employee clears a drain in front of Cafe Nola. The system was fouled by leaves and overwhelmed by water from Madison Ave. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
A public works employee clears a drain in front of Cafe Nola. The system was fouled by leaves and overwhelmed by water from Madison Ave.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

Heavy rains caused brief flooding and property damage in downtown Winslow Tuesday morning.

With rainwater cascading in a mad torrent down Madison Avenue and fallen leaves fouling gutters, several storm drains were overwhelmed.

Winslow Way was closed to traffic at about 8 a.m., when a drain backed up and water quickly covered the roadway and one sidewalk, breaching the thresholds of several businesses.

The water level was nearly hip-high at the curb, until public works crews cleared the drain, a whirlpool appeared, and the backup quickly receded.

The street reopened to traffic within the hour.

But the response was too late for Pastiche Antiques, where property damage was reported inside the store.

“Boy, what a mess. This whole place is torn to pieces,” owner Beverly Thetford said, as volunteers helped her put the business back in order.

Thetford said she intended to contact city officials to find out why the storm system in the streets outside failed.

“How do we stop something like this when we’re going to have leaves falling for the next couple of months?” she asked. “The only thing we can think of is, we’re going to have to sandbag our doors every night it rains.”

Flooding was also reported at the Pacific EyeCare clinic on Madison Avenue, which also saw its yard flood during the record-setting downpours last month.

But the precipitation mark set at that time – when more than 4 inches fell in a 24-hour period – has yet to be eclipsed.

The Sakai Intermediate School weather station reported that 1.25 inches of rain had fallen on the island by 9 a.m. Tuesday, and 2.8 inches since Saturday.

There were no weather-related emergency calls, Bainbridge Fire Department officials reported Tuesday morning.

– Douglas Crist

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***Tax swap back from the dead

A controversial tax shift will get another airing after all.

The City Council’s finance committee voted this week to advance the proposal – which would lower the city’s sales tax rate but raise the real-estate excise tax rate – to the full council for consideration.

That does not mean committee members are enthusiastic about the idea, Councilman Bill Knobloch said, just that it deserves a fuller examination.

“We are not endorsing any excise tax at this point,” Knobloch said Tuesday. “What we’re saying is, it’s such a sensitive issue that it deserves council consideration for discussion only.”

The vote to advance the proposal was 2-1, with Knobloch and Lois Curtis in support, and Debbie Vancil opposed. Two weeks ago, the same committee voted 2-1 not to advance the proposal, with Curtis casting the dissenting vote at that time.

The issue now will be on the Nov. 25 agenda.

The proposal – which came from the city administration with the 2004 draft budget – would lower the city’s sales tax rate by a half-percent, and raise the real-estate excise tax rate by a like amount. The excise tax is collected when homes and lands are sold.

The city finance department has estimated that the tax shift would bring in some $300,000 in new revenue to the city coffers in 2004.

But the plan has come under fire from local real estate professionals, who say it would shift the general tax burden onto the backs of the few hundred islanders who sell their homes each year.

Knobloch challenged that assessment, saying homeowners are already the beneficiaries of a voter-imposed cap on property taxes under I-747. The initiative held the city to just a 1 percent increase in the local property tax collection, an estimated $51,000 next year out of $5.182 million in projected property tax revenue.

Knobloch said the excise tax hike is still on the table only for purposes of the “end game” exercise of balancing the 2004 budget.

The council will convene at 6:30 p.m. this evening at City Hall, for a planned three-hour workshop at which Knobloch said “critical” discussions would be held on program funding and revenue needs for next year.

– Douglas Crist

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