Hoback Junction officially has a water and sewer district.
Teton County Clerk Maureen “Mo” Murphy said Hoback residents who cast ballots in a small, local election about forming the district voted unanimously for its formation. The tally was 35-0.
“Even North Korea doesn’t get that kind of voting percentages,” said Bob Frodeman, a Hoback resident who championed the push to form the district, laughing as he said as much. “People are realizing that water’s an essential resource and that we need to safeguard our environment and our future home.”
Hoback Junction has struggled with water quality issues for years, primarily north of the Hoback River where drinking water has been contaminated with high levels of nitrates and salts.
Advocates say forming a district gives Hoback residents a key tool to begin addressing that problem: a small, local government capable of levying taxes to pay off low-interest state loans and applying for state grants to build water and sewer infrastructure. Frodeman, now one of five people on the Hoback Junction Water and Sewer District’s board, said he will also look for federal grants to fund projects.
Frodeman won a four-year term on the board. So did Chris Jaubert and Trevor Robinson. Marty Camino and Austin Sessions won two-year terms.
Frodeman won 33 votes, Camino, 29, and Sessions, 28. Chris Jaubert got four write-ins. Robinson, also a write-in, got three.
Frodeman cautioned that forming the district doesn’t mean water quality will be addressed quickly. Cost will be one of the main barriers going forward. As the board votes on water quality spending, Frodeman said members plan to keep that in mind.
Frodeman said there are only about 60 properties included in district boundaries, all northeast of the confluence of the Hoback and Snake rivers. Once the total dollar value of grants the district is able to receive is subtracted from the total cost of improving the area’s water quality infrastructure, those 60 households will have to split the remaining cost. Frodeman said the next step is figuring out how much improvements will cost and then determining if they’re affordable for Hoback ratepayers.
“The board of directors is going to vote like the 60 households,” Frodeman said. “We’re going to look for a clear consensus and represent the common will down here.”
Forming a district, he said, just allows Hoback to “begin.”
Specifically, it will help Hoback residents to finish a study that will detail ways to engineer the area’s way out of its drinking water problems. The study will also estimate how much doing so will cost.
Once that’s done, the district will allow residents to ask the state government for construction funds.
Doing so wasn’t possible without a district.
Teton County, the Teton Conservation District, Crowley Capital LLC, Protect Our Water Jackson Hole and the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the ongoing engineering study that will lay out possible ways to improve drinking water.
Forming the district was at least three years in the making. In 2020, a stakeholder group that included Hoback residents recommended forming a district to address drinking water concerns in the area.
Frodeman credited a handful of people for getting the district across the finish line: Chief Deputy County Attorney Keith Gingery, Teton County Engineer Amy Ramage, Conservation District Executive Director Carlin Girard, Chief Deputy County Clerk Kellie Dickerson and Crowley Capital Manager Lane LaMure.
“It’s been a community and group effort that speaks well of southern Teton County and Teton County generally,” Frodeman said.
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