“I think it would probably put us out of business if we hiked rates that far,” Meeteetse Mayor Bill Yetter said in a recent interview.
The town figures it’s a roughly $2 million job to replace the lagoons. If you were simply to pass that cost on to Meeteetse’s residents, that comes out to a bill of roughly $6,000 per person.
“That’s the issue right there, is with our present population figures, there’s no way that we could have done anything except, you know, temporary patchwork type things,” Yetter said of the large cost/small population dilemma. “And the town has been saddled with a pretty poorly designed system and we really, we need in the long term to get out from under that.”
While federal and state grants and loans can provide funding for those types of infrastructure projects, voters across Park County came to the town’s aid in November, passing a new 1 percent sales tax in the general election. Meeteetse’s sewer lagoons will be among $13.68 million worth of projects across the county that will be paid for by the specific purpose tax; in Powell, the city will be widening Absaroka Street at an estimated cost of $4.25 million. The local sales tax rate will jump from 4 to 5 percent in April and the extra “penny” of tax will stay in place until the full amount is raised.
Yetter said Meeteetse’s current lagoons are located 189 vertical feet above the town.
“If and when — I suppose more likely when — we get any population growth, the way they were placed originally, there’s no room for expansion,” the mayor said. “And it’s an aging, pretty aged system and it needs some serious attention.”
Speaking shortly after the election, Yetter said he thought the voters who supported the new tax (roughly 53 percent of them) realized it was truly for infrastructure projects.
“I don’t see, for want of a better term, a vindictive feeling among the taxpayers over something that’s truly needed,” he said.
Of the nearly 200 Town of Meeteetse residents who cast ballots in November, more than 62 percent supported the tax; only three of the county’s 29 precincts gave stronger support to the measure. Meeteetse residents arguably stand to gain the most: although the town makes up only a bit more than 1 percent of Park County’s population, it will receive around 14.6 percent of the $13.68 million tax.
Yetter said he hopes the sewer upgrades will result in a better system that “we can live with for the next 40 to 60 years.”
As for the town’s next step?
“Time to roll up the sleeves and get busy making some real plans for these improvements,” Yetter said in November.