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Jackson Voters To Decide Landslide Funding

Rebecca Huntington

On Tuesday, Jackson voters will be deciding whether to use sales tax dollars to pay for fixing a landslide that's looming over the town's main road. In 2014, the creeping slide accelerated triggering an emergency evacuation of nearby homes and businesses, disrupting water and sewer and destroying a Walgreens parking lot. Walgreens has abandoned the site and the town has spent more than one million dollars to restore services and slow the slide.

Town spokesman Carl Pelletier says the Town of Jackson is going to shore up the slide no matter what happens at the polls. The question for voters, he says is whether tourists help pay for it.

He says the slide has to be fixed because its still moving and getting closer to the town's main water and sewer lines.

"If it hits the main water line that will release about 2 million gallons of water, destroying Broadway, flooding businesses and residences throughout the town of Jackson and cutting off water supply both drinking water and fire suppression supply," he said. "It would be devastating not only to our residents but also the economy."

If this tax measure fails, residents could be stuck with the bill, which could result in higher utility bills, delayed capital repairs or cuts to town services, Pelletier said.

By asking residents to approve continuing a sixth penny of sales tax to pay for the $6 million fix, the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce estimates that visitors will chip in about two thirds of that amount.

"This is about how we're going to pay for the landslide because we will fix the landslide either through a SPET initiative where visitors can shoulder 66 percent of the cost and residents pay approximately 33 percent of the cost," Pelletier said. "Or we fix it where residents pay 100 percent of the cost."

The Special Purpose Excise Tax (SPET) proposal has won support from Jackson Republicans, Democrats and the Jackson Hole Tea Party.

Town Manager Bob McLaren and Councilman Don Frank answered questions about the SPET proposal at a recent League of Women Voters forum. Audio of the forum is available at tclib.org/vote

A multi-media journalist, Rebecca Huntington is a regular contributor to Wyoming Public Radio. She has reported on a variety of topics ranging from the National Parks, wildlife, environment, health care, education and business. She recently co-wrote the one-hour, high-definition documentary, The Stagecoach Bar: An American Crossroads, which premiered in 2012. She also works at another hub for community interactions, the Teton County Library where she is a Communications and Digital Media Specialist. She reported for daily and weekly newspapers in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Wyoming for more than a decade before becoming a multi-media journalist. She completed a Ted Scripps Fellowship in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado in 2002. She has written and produced video news stories for the PBS series This American Land (thisamericanland.org) and for Assignment Earth, broadcast on Yahoo! News and NBC affiliates. In 2009, she traveled to Guatemala to produce a series of videos on sustainable agriculture, tourism and forestry and to Peru to report on the impacts of extractive industries on local communities.
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