This fall, residents 18 and older have a chance to make a critical investment in infrastructure, public safety and community enhancement projects throughout Laramie County.
The best part? It won’t cost us any more than we’re already paying.
On Nov. 2, voters will be asked to say yes or no to a dozen separate proposals that add up to $130 million. These projects would be funded over the next several years through the Specific Purpose Tax, commonly known as the sixth-penny sales tax.
Laramie County residents and visitors to our communities have been paying this tax nearly nonstop since 1986. (The only exception has been short time periods when one collection has been completed and the next hasn’t begun.) Through the years, this money has been used to build the Laramie County Governmental Complex, the Laramie County jail, a new Laramie County Library, the Cheyenne Public Safety Center, Cheyenne’s first-class greenway system and much more.
The last batch of projects, approved by voters in 2017, included: $18 million to pay for expansions to the Laramie County District Court and construction of a new facility for Cheyenne Municipal Court (where the dilapidated Carey Building used to stand downtown); $16.2 million to expand the Laramie County jail; $15 million to expand Christensen Road over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, connecting the north and south portions of east Cheyenne; and $9.9 million to build a large multi-purpose event center at the Laramie County Archer Complex east of Cheyenne.
Now that government officials have almost collected the full $91.6 million for the projects approved four years ago, they’ve prepared a new slate for voters to consider. Only this time, they’ve really done it right.
In the past, we’ve been critical of county leaders for the way they’ve tried to manipulate voters into approving controversial “wants” by mixing them in with small-town “needs” on various propositions. This game backfired in 2017 when an indoor gymnasium and an indoor turf facility proposed for Cheyenne were narrowly rejected by voters, dragging city fire station rehabilitation, county radio equipment and 10 rural/county projects down with them.
This year, in an effort to be more transparent with voters, city and county leaders have developed a 12-proposition ballot that includes five standalone projects and seven groupings. And while voters can decide the merits of each project for themselves, they don’t mix apples and oranges.
Briefly, the proposals include:
• County road projects, $11.4 million, standalone
• City road maintenance, $14 million, standalone
• Infrastructure Group 1, $9.6 million – Includes equipment for the Eastern Laramie County Landfill, updated Cheyenne cemetery irrigation systems, road resurfacing in Pine Bluffs and fire hall renovations for Albin, among others.
• Infrastructure Group 2, $13.5 million – Includes money for infrastructure at Clear Creek Park, boiler replacement at the Laramie County Library and expanding the parking lot at Cheyenne Regional Airport, as well as a sewer connection at the Archer Complex, street repairs in Burns, water system upgrades in Pine Bluffs and finishing a public mobile home/RV park in Albin.
• Community Enhancements Group 1, $8.8 million – Includes money for equipment for Clear Creek Park, Archer Events Center improvements, a manufacturing program buildout at Laramie County Community College, a new library bookmobile and Greenway expansion.
• Community Enhancements Group 2, $7.2 million – Covers the planning and design of a Johnson Pool replacement; planning, design and a space needs analysis for the Cheyenne Municipal Building; a new gymnasium and gymnastics facility at the Ice and Events Center (to replace the aging facility recently sold to the school district), and Greenway maintenance.
• Community Enhancements Group 3, $12.5 million – Includes money for downtown Cheyenne improvements and maintenance; for large project completion of places like the former Hitching Post Inn and the Hynds Building/adjacent hole; and for Cheyenne matching grant funds.
• Public Safety Group 1: Three new Cheyenne Fire Rescue stations, $15.7 million, standalone
• Public Safety Group 2, $12.8 million – This includes a new HVAC system for the Laramie County Coroner’s Office; sirens and an emergency alert system for the Laramie County Emergency Management Agency, and a combined communications system software upgrade, among other things.
• Public Safety Group 3, $11.9 million – This group includes replacing a variety of outdated and unreliable Cheyenne Fire Rescue apparatuses; new portable radios for Cheyenne Police officers; maintenance and repair of town-owned vehicles in Burns, and relocating a railroad crossing in Pine Bluffs, among other things.
• New Cheyenne Housing Authority Senior Center, $10.1 million, standalone
• Minimum revenue guarantee to air service, $2.2 million, standalone
For more details about all of these proposals, read our story in Thursday’s WTE or online at https://tinyurl.com/sixthpennyballot2021.
What won’t be on the ballot? Well, the largest request was for money to renovate and upgrade the Cheyenne Civic Center. That facility, built nearly 40 years ago, is in need of as much as $40 million in upgrades, including larger restrooms and other features to make it ADA compliant.
We agree that work needs to be done, but a thorough review of what did make the cut shows a strong focus on “needs,” with very few “wants” on this year’s ballot. Even the $30 million in the three community enhancement measures covers needs like fixing crumbling downtown infrastructure and maintaining the existing Greenway (though we would argue making sure the city has a place to operate its gymnastics program for local kids is equally important).
We have very little to quibble about with this year’s sixth-penny sales tax ballot, and we encourage all Laramie County residents of voting age to mark their calendars, show up at the polls and give their support to all 12 proposals on Nov. 2.