Various Big Horn County mayors and town officials have expressed the various needs in their communities that would be met by the proposed one-cent specific use sales tax, which will be on the ballot in November, each saying that the projects are essential.
In the case of Byron Mayor Bret George, however, one project is truly a serious matter and is an issue of “pay me now or pay me later.”
Byron has proposed three projects for the sales tax totaling just under $1.8 million, and as George put it, “the absolute, hands-down” most important project is a project to replace the sewer lines on the south half of town.
The town is seeking $950,000 from the sales tax, and if it passes, the town would then seek another $950,000 in mineral royalty money from the State Loan and Investment Board to complete the project.
“We are going to be in deep trouble if we don’t get this to pass, because somehow, some way the south half of Byron has to be replaced,” George said. “It’s old clay tile from the mid-1900s. It has collapsed in many locations, and the amount of ground water it’s taking on is more than our lagoon can handle.”
The problem peaks during the summer when the water table rises above that of the sewer lines, he said.
“We are basically a French drain for the south half of Byron,” he said.
Byron is using about $86,000 in county consensus money, plus some leftover mineral royalty grant money to replace the worst section of the sewer system just south of the former school facility, but that project would fix a tiny portion of the overall system, George said.
George said Byron is rare among the towns seeking one-cent money by proposing to use the money to match grant money, thus stretching the dollars.
“I was very concerned about the money being raised,” he said. “I didn’t want the county (people) to foot the whole bill.”
George warned that if the sales tax doesn’t pass, Byron will be “in the same place Lovell was a few years ago, needing to assess the citizens to fund a project that has to be completed.
“We’ll have to assess the community to take care of the problem,” he said. “My goal is to avoid doing this to the residents of Byron.”
The second project proposed by Byron is a $460,000 project to crack seal and then chip seal all of the paved streets in Byron, which George called a needed maintenance project.
Third on the list is a $350,000 parks project including $100,000 to match a Wyoming Dept. of Transportation TEAL grant for Memorial Park.
The improvements to Memorial Park would include a gazebo, possible restrooms, overnight facilities, a memorial veterans wall, a walking path and landscaping to include a new sprinkler system and new lighting.
“It will bring the park up to where we thought Memorial Park would be,” Geoerge said.
The balance of the park money – around $250,000 – would be used to upgrade Jones Memorial Park with new playground equipment and possibly a splash park.
“We want to improve the park so families and kids have access to more equipment,” the mayor said.
By David Peck