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Ballot amendment to Wyo constitution would affect upgrades to Casper sewer system

Solids are removed from wastewater in a clarifying tank on Thursday, July 20, 2017 at the Sam H. Hobbs Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo — Wyoming voters will be asked to approve an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution in the November 3 general election. The change is to Section 5 of Article 16, which sets limitations on how school districts and municipalities are able to fund projects. 

The statute limits the amount of debt a municipality can incur to work on sewage disposal systems. Currently, a municipality cannot incur a debt more than 4% of the assessed value of the taxable property in the area. The amendment would remove that cap.

Constitutional Amendment A (Wyoming Secretary of State)

That has ramifications for Casper, as City Manager Carter Napier told Oil City News. He said there are upgrades needed to Casper’s Wastewater Treatment Plant and collection infrastructure, both to replace areas of corrosion in interceptor pipes and to keep up with evolving environmental regulations.

Napier said Casper would only be able to bond for about $20-22 million of the estimated $27-30 million needed to complete the upgrades to the treatment plant specifically over the next 6-7 years. He added that Casper was able to secure about $8 million needed for a $9 million upgrade to a 5-7 mile length of interceptor pipeline.

“It is not a tax,” Napier said when asked if he’d heard of any pushback to the amendment. He said that the language from 1890 came from a time when settling lagoons were among the primary means of sewage disposal, not the sophisticated infrastructure of modern times.

“These are big, expensive assets,” Napier said. Curiously enough, he noted, the same section of the Constitution exempted water infrastructure from such a cap.

The Wyoming Association of Municipalities, which lobbied to get the amendment approved by the legislature in February, said in a promotional memo that the 98 cities and towns it represents in Wyoming support the amendment, and Napier said many of them are facing similar funding challenges with their sewer systems.

Voting is currently open for the Nov. 3 general election.

(Wyoming Association of Municipalities, Facebook)

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