WOOD RIVER - It was announced Tuesday afternoon that Third Judicial Circuit Judge Ronald Foster made a ruling to dismiss a lawsuit against the City of Wood River to prohibit it from utilizing 1 percent non-home rule sales tax funds to build and operate a recreation center.
The lawsuit had been filed by plaintiff William Dettmers while he was a citizen of Wood River in March 2022. Dettmers is now a Wood River City Council member.
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Dettmers had said the city violated the state's municipal code by misappropriating 1 percent sales tax funds to build the rec center.
Riverbender.com contacted Wood River City Administrator Steve Palen and he said he was glad to receive the judge's ruling.
The ruling allows the city to build and operate the Rec center that is presently being constructed.
“We are very excited about the ruling,” he said. “We intend to do a walk-through with the media, council people and other dignitaries in mid-July of the Rec center. This has been a long process and we are glad the lawsuit has been lifted and we are pleased with the ruling to dismiss the lawsuit."
Dettmers said he "did not agree" with the judge's decision and said he and his attorney are exploring other options on what to do next.
"The ruling doesn't make any sense," he said. "We think the opinion is incorrect. The key thing is I don't think it is correct to use these funds for municipal operations because that portion of the state statute expired at the end of 2020. And also I don't think it qualifies for property tax relief. The reason is the city argued it was public infrastructure and admitted it did not qualify as public infrastructure. Then they came back and said that doesn't matter because we are going to treat it as property tax relief so we don't have to raise property taxes. That means the city can ignore how they have been operating over the past couple of years when they treated it as public infrastructure and now they decided they can spend the money any way they like, regardless of what we believe the law allows."
Dettmers said if the Rec Center has to become a reality, he will work on the council to make sure money is not being spent needlessly and the Rec Center can operate within its means."
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