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Natrona County could hold special election in November to vote on sixth-cent tax

A voter casts his ballot during early voting at the Natrona County Courthouse on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)

CASPER, Wyo — A temporary sixth-cent special purpose sales and use tax could be on the ballot in a special election in Natrona County this November.

The Natrona County Commission (BOCC) discussed the issue at their work session last Tuesday, May 4. 

The tax would specifically fund two projects. One is the renovation of Midwest Avenue downtown to Poplar Street — anticipating traffic to the new state building on Collins, said BOCC Chairman Paul Bertoglio.

The other is the replacement of approximately 6 miles of water pipeline along Salt Creek Highway to the town of Midwest.

“There’s places where it’s in really poor condition,” Commissioner Dave North told Oil City News Friday.  “Basically, if we don’t that taken care of, then Midwest could be without water.”

Bertoglio put a rough estimate for the total combined cost of the projects at $4-7 million.

Bertoglio emphasized that the specific purpose (sixth cent) tax would expire once the funding goals for the two projects were met, which could take as few a six months.

“I think everybody believes that when you pass it, it never goes away,” he said.

He added that the relatively modest funding goal could reassure residents that the optional tax is a viable, temporary funding mechanism for specific projects.

Commissioner Brook Kaufman said both projects “charted high” in support on surveys mailed to residents.

Attorney Eric Nelson informed the county commission that to get on the ballot, four of the six Natrona County municipalities would have to file a joint resolution, including the amount of funds needed, to the Natrona County Clerk by July 15.

There is a still chance the special purpose tax funds might be unnecceasry. Commissioner Rob Hendry pointed out that Casper had applied for a U.S. Department of Transportation grant to fund the Midwest Avenue project.

Bertoglio mentioned the $1.1 billion in federal funding coming to Wyoming under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) as a potential funding source, but said there wasn’t yet any guidance from the U.S. Treasury about how those funds could be used.

The prospect of a special election was met with some trepidation by Natrona County Clerk Tracy Good, who said it would amount to  “a year’s worth of work in four or five months.”

Wyoming has a 4-cent sales and use tax, and counties and municipalities can vote to add a fifth, sixth or seventh to fund infrastructure improvements and equipment purchases, but not to hire personnel. Natrona County’s fifth-cent is up for renewal in 2022.

Oil City News was unable to reach City officials for firmer estimates and grant application