Sixth penny buys crucial improvements

William Yates, a deputy with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, climbs into his vehicle Friday morning outside of the Albany County Courthouse. If voted through, the sheriff’s office will be recipients of funds from the sixth-penny tax, and the money will be the source used to upgrade its fleet of aging vehicles.

There’s a lot riding on the specific purpose tax in the 2018 primary election.

The project that receives the most money after roads is renovation to the Laramie Regional Airport terminal. In a July interview, Laramie Regional Airport Manager Jack Skinner said the current terminal is too small for the current and future passenger load. The seating area after the security checkpoint only has seating for 28 people while planes that hold 50 are flown in and out of the airport.

Mark Mader, retired accountant and the first chairman of the Laramie Economic Development Corporation, said he agreed with Skinner on the need for expansion of the terminal. Other important entities that need the money are law enforcement and firefighters, Mader said.

He said the only time the Albany County Sheriff’s Office updates its fleet of vehicles is through the sixth penny tax.

The Laramie Fire Department is set to receive money for design and construction of a live-burn training building at a little under $4 million. Mader said people could potentially see an increase in what they pay for insurance without it. Laramie has low priced fire insurance because of the quality of the Laramie Fire Department, he said.

Without the training building, it will also be harder to recruit new firefighters. Mader said the competition to obtain new firefighters has become fierce and the new facility could draw recruits to the Gem City.

Another way the citizens of Laramie can see an economic impact without the funding of the sixth penny is the loss of companies that might move here if improvements through the tax are completed. Mader said there was a company invited to come up to Laramie from Fort Collins, Colorado, to see if they would be interested in relocating. He said they turned around when they first saw Laramie because of how bad the gateways looked. The tax would dedicate $1 million toward beautification projects on the interchanges and roads leading into the city that could give the community an economic leg up.

Paving and repairing roads will take up a third of the revenue from the sixth penny tax. The repair projects will be done in order of a scientific ranking called the Pavement Condition Index, or PCI, and recommendations from the Laramie City Council. City Manager Janine Jordan said during a City Council work session in July costs for road maintenance triple once a given road’s PCI falls below 60 points.

Jordan said the estimated level of the city-wide PCI is estimated to be around 63-64.

Laramie Mayor Andi Summerville has said several times over the past month the council and city staff will work to make revenue double or even triple for road projects. Grants are offered to help cities with rebuilding roads and other infrastructure costs, but Mader said they often require some money to be put towards the project from the municipalities.

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