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Tribune Staff

Among the decisions Park County voters will be asked to make one week from today is whether to approve a specific purpose sales tax to fund expansions and updates to the emergency room and other portions of West Park Hospital in Cody.

The proposal often has been viewed by Powellites from an “us vs. them” standpoint: Why should people in Powell pay for improvements at the Cody hospital, when Powell Valley Hospital needs many of the same improvements?

But I would ask people to look beyond this selfish reasoning. We're all residents of Park County, and it's important for us to work together to advance worthwhile causes and projects. After all, without the support of many Cody residents (though not a majority), Powell residents would not be enjoying an aquatic center now, and it's likely we will be asking for money for future projects as well — perhaps even a similar building project at Powell Valley Hospital. Park County communities must stop this ongoing community feud and support each other for the good of all.

Others decry any effort to raise money by any form of tax, regardless of the amount or the purpose. I believe this is short-sighted; each proposal should be weighed on its own merit. For most, a 1 percent sales tax is not a budget breaker, and the specific purpose sales tax provides a way to fund projects and facilities for the good of the public that otherwise might go unfunded. It also brings in dollars from tourists who spend money in Park County and Yellowstone, making it a little less onerous for residents, and it ends when the project is paid for.

However, there are some other important factors to consider when voting for or against the West Park proposal, and some of those have been overlooked or downplayed — and even misrepresented — during the discussion over whether to fund the West Park project. Following is my summary of some of those issues.

• The West Park Hospital District is a tax district — formed specifically for the purpose of raising money through property taxes to fund building projects at the hospital. The district comprises Cody and the surrounding area served by the hospital. As with the specific purpose sales tax, any property tax would have to be approved by voters — but in this case, only residents of the district would vote, and if approved, pay the tax for the project.

Some say it would be best to raise the money for the West Park project through a property tax on the district, because the people paying the tax also would be the people who use the hospital's services.

But I think the reasoning should go beyond that. The specific purpose tax is a valuable tool created to fund worthwhile community projects, particularly those without any dedicated funding or methods to pay for them. In my opinion, specific purpose sales taxes should be approved only for important community projects that can't reasonably be funded in any other way. I believe it would have been more appropriate for the West Park board to attempt to raise the money through the district before considering a specific purpose tax proposal.

The reason the board opted to go the specific purpose sales tax route is simple and understandable: By extending the tax countywide, more people pay and the money is raised faster, reducing the amount of interest paid on a construction loan and shortening the wait to begin construction.

• The West Park proposal has been a moving target that, initially at least, came with little or no advance public discussion at a time when other projects already were on the table. When West Park officials first approached the Cody City Council with the proposal, they were asking for a total of $38.5 million. When local government leaders and the public balked at that figure, the project was scaled down and numbers recalculated for lower construction costs. The board also decided to apply $12 million — previously held in reserves for a future building project phase — toward the proposal.

Those changes, combined, whittled the amount West Park needed for the remodel down to $14.2 million. But one could argue they should have been made before the project ever went to the public. It is unconscionable that West Park board members even considered asking the public to fund a $38 million project when they had $12 million stashed away in a reserve account that would have continued to earn interest while taxpayers were footing the bill for the entire project.

• One of the arguments used repeatedly to justify asking for a specific purpose tax to pay for the West Park remodel is, “We don't want to burden our children with a property tax that will take 25 years to pay off.”

That is misleading, if now downright deceitful. True, when West Park initially made its specific purpose tax proposal for $38 million, it would have taken 25 years to pay off the debt with money raised by a property tax on the West Park Hospital District. But now that the proposal has shrunk to $14 million, it would take only nine and a half years to pay it off through that method. Admittedly, that's still about three and a half times longer than the estimated 31-months it would take to raise the money through a specific purpose tax, but it's a far cry from burdening a second generation.

• The bottom line: The proposed remodel of West Park Hospital's emergency room and other areas absolutely is needed. I don't think anyone is arguing with that; I certainly am not. West Park Hospital is a public facility that serves the public, and it deserves public funding, if it is needed; the real question is, what form should that funding take, and who should pay the bill?

Voters need to be informed and prepared to answer those questions when they cast votes for or against the West Park proposal. Make sure to vote one way or another; if you cast a ballot but don't vote on the issue, it counts as a vote against the project.

And, if voters agree to fund the project through a specific purpose tax, we will expect Cody voters to reciprocate if Powell Valley Hospital makes a similar proposal in the future. WPH board members already have said they would support such a proposal.

After all, one way or another, we're all in this together.

A week from today (Tuesday), voters statewide will queue up at the polls, casting decisive votes in a pivotal primary election.

Much is at stake in this year's primary.

Locally, Park County voters will decide whether to reinstate a specific purpose 1-cent tax, this time for major renovations to Cody's West Park Hospital. In recent years, voters approved a 1-cent sales tax for a new Park County Jail (2002) and the Powell pool, Meeteetse pool and Park County Library projects (2006). Unlike previous years, voters must consider the 1-cent tax in the primary ballot rather than November's general election.

Whether Park County residents and tourists will pay an extra penny on purchases for the next 31 months — nearly three years — hinges on what voters say next Tuesday.

The West Park tax proposal has provoked praise, criticism and continual debate since it was first publicly presented in January. Seven months' worth of information, campaigning and controversy all comes to a head next week, making it crucial to show up and vote on this important ballot item.

Though public officials are not elected until November's general election, many races likely will be decided in the primary. Only one of four main GOP gubernatorial candidates will advance to the November ballot.

For certain races — such as the Powell area House District 25 legislative race — no Democratic candidates filed. A dozen GOP candidates are facing off for three available seats on the Park County Commission, and only one Democrat is running.

So in some cases, the Republican candidates who advance in next week's primary could very well be our next leaders.

To help inform voters about this year's candidates and their positions on important issues, the Tribune has published an online primary election guide. The edition, available at, provides an overview of candidates in city, county and statewide races.

Voters only have a week to decide which way to vote, and in the days ahead, there's a wealth of resources to help you make informed decisions.

Get to know candidates and issues this week — and be sure to show up and cast your vote on Tuesday, Aug. 17.

(June 22, 1953 - August 6, 2010)

Debra A. (Dean) Beall, died Friday, Aug. 6, 2010, at Powell Valley Healthcare due to a long illness of COPD. She was 57.

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Workers secure a piece of machinery to a truck that will haul it to another location as Weatherford prepares to shut down its operation in Powell. More than a dozen trucks arrived Monday and early Tuesday, and all the equipment was expected to be moved by Tuesday evening. Tribune photo by Don Amend

Semi trucks haul equipment from facility

Alan Road was a busy place Tuesday as Weatherford International began moving equipment from its Powell facility in preparation for shutting down operations in Park County.

An estimated 15 trucks began arriving Monday afternoon. They lined Alan Road on Tuesday waiting to be loaded, and a spokesman said she expected the operation to be completed by the end of the day.

Montana officials are investigating claims that a photographer may have baited wildlife in the vicinity of the grizzly bear attack that killed a camper near Cooke City, Mont., last week.

“I can confirm there has been an allegation of bear baiting,” said Andrea Jones, information officer for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Wednesday. “We don't know how solid it is at this point.”

Junior livestock sale nets $276,151

We ran 213 kids through the sale,” said auction chairman Joe Bridges. That's up 16 from last year, with more lambs and hogs but fewer steers.

Buyers spent $276,151.50 Saturday at the annual Junior Livestock Sale at the Park County Fair, down slightly from $283,334.45 in 2009.


Cooper Wise slides into second base as the ball escapes the third baseman's grip during Tuesday's Pacific Northwest regional Babe Ruth tournament opener in Klamath Falls. Tribune photo by Greg Wise

Final-inning homer foils All-Star hopes

Victory eluded the Powell Babe Ruth All-Stars by the slimmest of margins on Tuesday as the team opened play at the Pacific Northwest regional tournament in Klamath Falls, Ore. After leading for much of the contest, Powell was tagged late for a two-run homer, falling 7-6 to northern Oregon representative Hermiston.

Powell's first-round foe experienced

The Powell Pioneers will have their work cut out for them in the opening round of the 2010 Northwest Region Class A tournament in Bozeman, Mont., this Friday. Powell's opponent, the Ashland (Ore.) Pilots, have made the trip in three of the last four years.

Former Powell resident Steinmetz wins national title

When Neven Steinmetz was a student at Powell High School, she participated in the traditional sports —volleyball, basketball, that sort of thing. The thought that 15 years later she might be standing atop the podium as the national champion of an extreme sport never crossed her mind.

But she's slowly getting used to the feeling.

Steinmetz, a 1995 Powell High School graduate, was crowned the 2010 national mountain-cross champion last month after winning the title in Colorado. Steinmetz is currently in the final stages of earning her Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Colorado.

“You have a far-off goal of winning a national championship. I think everyone has some kind of thought along those lines,” Steinmetz said. “But for me, it was still hanging out somewhere over in the dream corner of my mind.”

Mountain-cross, also known as four-cross or simply 4X, is patterned after skier-X or boarder-X, popular X-Games and Winter Olympic events. The sport begins with four riders in the starting gate who must navigate a downhill dirt track filled with tight corners, speed-gathering straightaways and lots of bumps and jumps. The first two riders across the finish line in each heat advance to the next round and continue to race until only the final four riders remain.

Steinmetz successfully navigated all her preliminary races at the national championships without much drama.

Her championship run in the finals more than made up for it.

“I got off to a horrible start in the finals,” Steinmetz said. “Coming around the first turn, my foot came out of my pedal and I was in third place, which isn't good. The tracks we run on usually aren't constructed for passing, so the biggest advantage you have is being the person in front.”

For much of the race's first half, Steinmetz had a battle on her hands just to get into second place. That all changed abruptly as she came out of a corner and faced the second of three straight sections on the track.

“I didn't realize it until I saw myself on the video, but I just got the perfect line through that section,” said Steinmetz. “I went into the straight fighting for second, and then entering the corner at the end of it, suddenly there I am with a shot at first.”

Steinmetz's path through the straightaway enabled her to carry much of her speed into the next corner. It also allowed her to tuck her bike to the inside of the corner while the race leader — who also happened to be the defending world champion in the event — was forced to take a higher outside line. Steinmetz exited the corner with a slim lead and a short while later the pair collided, with only Steinmetz staying upright.

With the other two finalist riders well behind, Steinmetz's only challenge in the final straightaway was remaining atop her bike to cross the finish line.

“I see it and I'm still like, whoa, where did I come from?” said Steinmetz, who is unmistakable on the track on her pink cycle while wearing pink attire as an ambassador for Project Pink, a breast cancer awareness program. “I must have hit all the jumps in that section just perfect to carry that much speed.”

Steinmetz's national title was made even more amazing by her relative short period of time in the sport, as well as the unorthodox route she took in entering it.

Steinmetz's dirt-bike career started as a downhill rider, a more speed-based event in which riders navigate a downhill ski sort of slope with the goal of getting from top to bottom in the fastest amount of time. The thought of entering a mountain-cross race likely would have never crossed her mind had it not been for one thing.

“When I started out, they were desperate for riders to fill the race, so they offered free entries,” said Steinmetz. “I decided to try it out because it was free and I found myself getting addicted to it. Most folks in 4X get into it via BMX racing.”

Steinmetz says she has eight years of experience, five of which has been spent as a pro. Her competition has been at it “a lot longer,” she says.

That she's able to compete at all is somewhat of a miracle. Steinmetz's cycling career nearly ended before it had a chance to start. Eight years ago, while out riding, she was struck by a car.

“I was flat in the middle of the road,” Steinmetz recalls. “I had to have hip surgery. I went through tons and tons of rehab. No way did I ever imagine something like this. I started riding again just to have something to do during the summer and to help with my rehab.”

Gradually, Steinmetz got on a training regimen as she got more and more into the sport. Still, she found her focus split between her schooling and her budding professional riding career.

“School has always been the focus for me, but the last two years it has been more split,” acknowledges Steinmetz.

Considering that she's in the finishing stages of a doctoral thesis, that hasn't always been the easiest of balancing acts.

“The day after I won the national championship, I had to go back and do a huge defense presentation for my Ph.D. committee,” said Steinmetz. “Hopefully I'll be done in April, but that just means my anxiety level is high.”

Steinmetz has an additional reason to feel anxiety. She plans to attend the world championships in Mont Saint Anne in Quebec, Canada, later this month. The event, which is scheduled to take place from Aug. 31-Sept. 5, provides her an opportunity to continue her ascent up the ranks of her sport.

“It's the pinnacle event for our sport,” said Steinmetz. “Whoever wins that day in the finals, they're the world champion.”

Much of the cost of making that trip will come out of Steinmetz's pocket. While she has the luxury of sponsors that help provide much of her equipment, from the bike that she rides to the helmet and safety equipment she wears, the actual travel costs are something she must come up with on her own.

“The United States doesn't pay money to defray costs for gravity events,” Steinmetz said. “It's not something the United States Olympic Committee funds. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, there was a little money in the sport, but since I started a lot of the sponsorships have been components —which still is nice.”

Steinmetz has set up a Paypal account online for those interested in assisting her with trip expenses. She can be e-mailed at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.

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