Weekly News Roundup: Friday, June 11

Miss the headlines this week? Learn more about potential property tax increases in Jackson, workforce housing, vaccine hesitancy and the upcoming wildfire season.
Local officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for 12 new workforce housing units at 440 West Kelly Avenue on Wednesday. (Will Walkey/KHOL)

by | Jun 11, 2021 | COVID-19, Housing, News, Wildfires

Town of Jackson Considers Raising Property Taxes

Property taxes were front and center during Monday’s Jackson Town Council meeting, with local representatives hearing presentations on what even a modest increase might look like in terms of revenue generation. Vice Mayor Arne Jorgenson has been a strong supporter of a larger property tax for months, stressing the fact that the town needs alternatives to make money to pay for services. He says now is the time to consider an increase given the fact that so much of Jackson’s revenue, such as its federal COVID-19 relief allocations, are temporary. “We need to recognize to ourselves and our community that we need to begin to think differently in terms of diversity of revenue streams going forward, which is the reason I continue. I continue to push and suggest that this is a very important tool from a process standpoint,” Jorgenson said.

Councilman Jim Rooks presented an alternative viewpoint, arguing instead that a real estate transfer tax or lodging tax might be better than putting increased stress on existing local landowners.

I just think it’s like looking at our incredibly strong reserves, looking at where we’re at right now,” Rooks said. “It’s safe to say that I’ll oppose an increase in property tax. I appreciate the recommendation of procedure. Look forward to those conversations. But at this point, I would just be opposed to voting in favor of this particular tax.”

The Town Council will likely vote on whether or not to increase property taxes in July.

Workforce Housing Development at 440 West Kelly Breaks Ground

Local officials ceremoniously dirtied their shovels Wednesday at 440 West Kelly Avenue in Jackson, a few blocks from the Teton County Fairgrounds. The group was kicking off construction of 12 workforce housing units, a project several years in the making. Jackson Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson voted in favor of the development as a town councilor back in 2020, and says she’s proud to see it moving forward. “I think about what was here before and it was a single family home. And what will be here is homes that will be housing, you know, 12 families that live in our community that don’t have stable housing right now,” she said.

The new workforce units will stand in contrast to surrounding single family homes in the neighborhood, and that caused plenty of controversy back when the project was being proposed. But Morton Levinson says it’s the people who will live there that will make a community, not a group of buildings. She also says smaller developments like the one on West Kelly Ave. deserve recognition for their role in helping curb Jackson’s housing crisis.

“As I said, every little bit helps. And that’s really the way that will make an impact. The the big projects are important and exciting, too. But we need to look for every opportunity that we have.” 

Youth Vaccination in Wyoming Lags Behind National Average

Wyoming has the fifth lowest youth vaccination rate in the nation, according to new analysis from The New York Times. Just 4% of residents between the ages of 12 and 17 are fully vaccinated, and 12% have received at least one dose. Only Pfizer shots are approved for those under 18, but multiple studies have proven that the vaccines are effective at preventing hospitalizations and other severe reactions from COVID-19 among minors. 75% of Teton County residents over 12 are fully vaccinated.

Wildfire Season a Cause for Concern 

The Wyoming State Forestry Division held a briefing on the outlook for the 2021 wildfire season Thursday in Cheyenne. Bill Crapser is the Wyoming State Forester and he says this summer could develop into a significant fire season, based on predictions from an interagency group of meteorologists and fire behavior specialists. “We’re looking at probably on the high end of normal for fire danger and fire potential for the rest of June and into July,” Crapser said. “In July, that’ll start shifting, and through predictive services, looks like they’re predicting an above normal fire season for Wyoming for the second half of July and all of August.”

Deputy Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region Jacque Buchanan also spoke at Thursday’s briefing. She says it’s great that more Americans have discovered the joy of recreating on the country’s public lands during the pandemic, but that the higher numbers also present an increased risk for human-triggered fires.

“We still want folks out there. It’s an important part for this country for folks to be able to experience that, but how do we have it managed in a way that limits the potential impacts?”

See below for past news briefs.

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