From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 30 - October 16, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Special projects’ supporters explain 1-cent tax

by Tiffany Turner

Due to the fast approaching election date and many questions arising over the “1 Cent 4 Change” campaign for the proposed one-cent Special Use Excise Tax (SPET) on the ballot next month, an open forum was held Tuesday evening.

Jo Crandall and Angie Smith, representing the Pinedale Community Center (PCC) and the Big Piney Rec Center (BPRC) respectively, held the open forum to overview the projects and open the floor for questions and comments.

The PCC and BPRC are the two projects whose fates will be determined by how the community votes on the SPET in November.

The two facilities, each needing $30 million for their endowments and facility construction (a total of $60 million), will only come to fruition should county voters choose to vote the tax into existence.

The 1-cent tax is expected to cover these costs over a four-year period or less, and County Commission Chairman Bill Cramer has stated that should the tax fail, the county will not build the facilities because that is not a traditional duty of the county.

“As far as the commission is concerned, they are wants, not needs,” Crandall said Tuesday.

Pinedale Community Center

According to Crandall, the PCC will be a community-based facility to be located in the Bloomfield near the site planned for the future Pinedale Elementary.

The facility will include rooms with movable dividers, gallery space, additional classroom space, larger meeting space than currently available in town and a catering kitchen.

“(The kitchen) would not be leased out to an individual,” Crandall explained.

Crandall added after speaking to community members, these were the types of things lacking in this area and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find usable, available space for different programs.

“We’ve been told by the school this is the kind of space they have been looking for,” Crandall said. “It is a space that has a lot of multi-purpose space.”

Big Piney Rec Center

The BPRC, more focused in its use than the PCC due to different needs in the south end of the county, plans to include several gyms, a movie theatre, bowling alley, climbing wall, kid zone and many other rec center-type features. The smaller gyms, Smith said, could serve as multi-purpose rooms.

“This space could be used for small conferences,” Smith said.

Meeting community needs

• After-school programming - Both facilities have looked into and surveyed the community to determine the items needed the most. Two resounding answers were after-school programs and childcare and meeting space.

There are currently around 300 children in the Big Piney/Marbleton area in need of after-school programs, Smith explained, and numbers in Pinedale seem consistent although a survey was not sent out to determine exact numbers.

“(After-school programming) is the thing I think people are the most excited about,” Smith said.

Bonnie Chambers, a longtime Pinedale resident, agreed, stating when her children were younger she went through similar issues trying to find programs for her kids during the period when school is out and parents are still at work.

“There is a tremendous need in the community,” Chambers said. “I think it’s time and (the community) is big enough. ... Our community needs some consistency.”

Chambers said for the past several years after-school programming has been up in the air and divided amongst several entities due to the closing of the after-school enrichment program.

Dawn Mitchell, who previously ran the enrichment program, agreed. Mitchell said one of the main reasons the program failed was there was no available space for it.

“It fell apart because there was no place for us to go,” Mitchell said.

She said the school had no space for the program and current rent in town was too expensive for it to thrive anywhere else.

Crandall said to Mitchell that the after-school program, should the PCC come into existence, would be able to rent the space for as low a price as possible.

“We are looking at a sliding scale,” Crandall said.

Chamber director Terrie Swift agreed with the need for childcare, not just for those already here but also for those looking to move into the area or who have recently relocated.

Many families find the lack of programming so difficult they eventually move out of the area or don’t come at all, Swift said.

Meeting space

The lack of space for programming also applied to meeting space for conventions or local functions.

Sharron Ziegler, organizing rental and usage of school property for over 20 years, explained that space is truly limited and it is getting to the point where the school barely has space for its own programs.

“Everything we have is now taken up by our own needs,” Ziegler said.

Ziegler added in the past the school was able to shuffle things around and generally accommodate programs looking to hold meetings or functions in the school.

“We don’t have that scheduling ability any more,” she said.

For this reason, the PCC, and to an extent the BPRC, have set out multi-use rooms for these functions, ranging from meetings and conferences to funerals.

“The idea is to be as versatile as we can,” Crandall explained.

The PCC has space for 700 in chairs or 400 people banquet-style.

“The possibilities once you have a conference space really are endless,” Swift said.

Swift said she looks toward this meeting-room and convention space to help boost Pinedale’s longevity when industry is gone.

“And the good thing about conferences is they are year-round not seasonal,” Crandall agreed.

Operating, funding the centers Due to questions arising around the community as to how prepared the two groups are to actually operate and fund themselves, Crandall and Smith explained how the numbers were agreed upon and what future plans are.

“We have four years of budget already,” Smith said.

According to Smith, the BPRC has been working with Dennis Popenga, who has more than 20 years’ experience running a similar facility in Evanston.

“The wages ... are probably the highest thing in there,” Smith said.

The budget determined between Popenga and the BPRC board comes to roughly $495,000 for the first year, Smith said.

“That’s huge,” she added.

Smith explained a $10-million endowment earning 5-percent interest every year would bring in roughly $500,000. With fees and memberships, Smith said the facility hopes to bring in around $250,000 yearly, allowing the endowment to grow by a quarter-million dollars each year.

This growth, Smith said, would help compensate for rising prices each year.

“And hopefully, as the community grows, membership will grow,” Smith added.

The PCC would not need that amount for operating costs, Crandall said, although the endowment size would be the same.

“We aren’t going to have the kind of programming that’s going to need all that supervision,” Crandall said.

Crandall explained those working on the PCC met with individuals running a similar facility in Platte County and then estimated high.

The Platte County facility operates yearly at around $250,000 but is a smaller space, according to Crandall. She said she took the number up to $350,000 to compensate for the larger space, “and then I took it up and said, ‘okay, lets make it $425,000’ ... and then I rounded off to $450,000.”

Due to this figuring, Crandall said she expects the proposal is way over the actual budget needed.

As for operations, both facilities will be run by a joint powers board including the county, towns and in Pinedale, the school system. The board will be a volunteer board with members appointed by the different entities.

The tax

These two facilities depend entirely on the passing of the tax in November. This tax will fall on all taxable goods excluding gas, food, property or non-taxable items. It is also figured industry will pay the largest sum toward the construction of the buildings and their endowments.

“This sales tax is not a property tax,” Crandall said. “There has been some confusion on that.”

Crandall stated that Sublette County and Fremont County are the only two in the state still operating at the state minimum 4-percent sales tax. Of that 4 percent, only 1-1/3 stays in the county.

“If we would vote this in, the whole thing stays here,” Crandall added. “$57 million will be paid by the oil and gas.”

That only leaves $3 million to be paid for by residents and tourists, Crandall explained.

“If someone offered playground equipment and they would pay $95 (out of $100)... we’d think that was a pretty good deal.”

Learning more

“The one thing I would really like to stress is none of us really have a dog in this fight,” Crandall said. “This would prepare both communities for the future.”

Both facilities have information, frequently asked questions and ways to reach the members online at www.1cent4change.com.

“It is a complex issue and people are really having a hard time wrapping their heads around it,” Crandall said. “We really need some face time.”

The groups organizing the PCC and BPRC urge all members of the community to check out the Web site and contact them with any questions to make an informed decision on the election ballot next month.

“Our general feeling is we just need to get out there,” Smith said.

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