Citizens eager to champion their favorite public projects — like wildlife crossings — are galvanizing supporters to show up Tuesday to the Town Hall. It’s the public’s first chance to pitch which proposals should be put to a vote in November.
The specific purpose excise tax, or SPET, allows voters to decide whether to fund a given project by approving an optional 1% sales tax. The Town Hall meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday will help determine what’s put to a vote on the upcoming SPET ballot, which must be finalized by July 17.
Though public comment was not allowed during the last few SPET meetings, advocates for wildlife crossings made their presence known with signs urging elected officials to “give wildlife a brake,” and in one case with an antlered animal head.
All 10 elected officials showed support for SPET funding for crossings to give animals safer passage through local thoroughfares criss-crossing their habitat. On Monday, they split down the middle on whether to approve the full $15 million request. Some suggested $7.5 million, and some even less.
Two moose have been struck and killed in the past week near the intersection of Highways 22 and 390 (see page 2), the top priority in the Wildlife Crossings Master Plan approved last summer.
The costliest item with broad support for the SPET ballot is a $22 million expansion of the Teton County/Jackson Recreation Center. That could include an additional full-court gymnasium, a climbing gym, an indoor track and renovation of the existing center, which Councilor Jim Stanford said is “bursting at the seams despite our best efforts to take good care of it.”
A last-minute proposal from the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum requesting $4.4 million to finance a relocation of the museum’s collections and three historic cabins to the Cafe Genevieve block is also in the running.
Voters from the 2017 SPET election may recall seeing a fleet maintenance facility for the town’s vehicles on the ballot, and after failing the first time it could reappear this year with a price tag of $16 million.
Other public projects broadly supported by elected officials also include $10.6 million for improvements to the Gregory Lane corridor, $3.5 million to upgrade the Cache Creek stormwater system and $1.6 million to purchase wildland firefighting vehicles.
But beyond these, electeds are interested in at least another six projects that would put the total cost well above the roughly $62 million officials are aiming to ask of voters.