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County to make sure citizens see 1-percent tax money in use

Jan 22, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Municipal and county leaders in Fremont County want to make sure the public knows how they spend money from the 1 percent optional sales tax. The Fremont County Association of Governments has decided to use road signs advertise infrastructure projects funded by the 1 percent tax.

Fremont County Commission vice-chairman Travis Becker said the county board tentatively is planning to create a committee of citizens to advise the county's transportation department on which roads to fix first.

The mayors of Riverton, Lander, Dubois, Pavillion and Shoshoni said their councils were planning to set up similar groups.

In light of each municipality having a committee for its residents, Becker said he wants people who live outside of cities or towns to comprise the county-wide committee.

Several representatives said the cost of the signs should come from the budget of the entity doing the project and not from the optional 1 percent tax revenue.

Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness said when the residents supported the tax, the idea was its revenue would pay for work, not for signs.

For the promotional signs, FCAG agreed on a circular design mimicking a penny. Curving over the top are the words, "Our tax dollars at work," and along the bottom it says "Penny power."

The silhouette of a person at work is in the middle above the words "1% optional tax."

The signs will be 24 inches in diameter and will be on a fluorescent green background.

Civil engineer Kyle Lehto created the design.

"We've got a guy working, and we've got the 1 percent optional tax as the foundation for that," Lehto said.

Lehto said he took the initiative to make the signs, because he wanted to make sure they were ready before work on the projects began.

"I think it's pretty important now that the 1 percent tax has passed that we get the municipalities and the commissioners, get them around one central design," Lehto said.

Jim Gores of James Gores and Associates said, "This is right in line with what seems to be successful elsewhere."

The group considered three other designs Lehto drafted.

Wind River Transportation Authority transportation manager Ben Eastmond said the association should avoid designs that referred to the tax as "One cent" because some residents took exception to that phrase during the election campaign.

Several people at the meeting said they liked the 24-inch size as well.

"If it's too small nobody's going to see it," Lander Mayor Mick Wolfe said.

The materials for a 24-inch sign, including the pole, anchor and break-away system, would cost $275, according to a quote Lehto received. The price does not include installation.

Break-away systems would allow the signs to break in a crash and diminish damage to vehicles hitting them.

Dubois Mayor Twila Blakeman emphasized the advantage of working together on the signs.

"If we get them all from one place, we can probably get a better price," she said.

Lehto was the treasurer of the Citizens for Improved Roads political action committee which advocated for the new tax.

At the meeting Lehto said the PAC disbanded after the November election, and he made the designs on his own time.

"I figured I could save them some money by coming up with a design for them," he said.

FCAG cannot make decisions for the county or its municipalities, so the governments of those entities will have to agree to use the sign design.

Lehto said he planned to visit with the towns, cities and county to show them his design.