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Keystone residents to research annexation

Aidan Leonard

KEYSTONE – A possible annexation of Keystone by the town of Dillon, a proposal that would unite much of the Snake River Basin under one municipality, took another significant step along the road to realization Thursday night.

By a show of hands, nearly two-thirds of the people attending a meeting of the Keystone Citizens League favored continued research into the concept.

“We do intend to go further in investigating various aspects of it,” League President Bob Follett said. “I know we’re all looking at boundaries, taxes, what service improvements and changes we can anticipate – these are all issues.”

A number of those concerns were addressed by a slide show that Dillon Town Manager Jack Benson presented to meeting participants, including what may prove to be the principal sticking point in any discussion – an increase in taxes.

According to Benson, in addition to the current 2 percent sales tax, another 2 percent would be levied by the town. The current sales tax, which now flows into county coffers, would be remitted to the town as well. Under an old agreement struck between the county and the towns, incorporated areas get to keep the county’s 2 percent sales tax.

Furthermore, Benson said, property taxes would increase about 36 percent, or 4.323 mills on top of the current 12.081 mills, and amount to about $39 in additional payments per $100,000 of actual value. A 2 percent lodging tax would also be effected.

These increases would generate nearly $4.5 million in additional town revenues, Benson said, and would cover the cost of annexation, but they wouldn’t leave a lot of cash on the other side for expenditures.

“It’s a good position,” he said. “It’s not a great position.”

The figures left many residents questioning what they would gain in return.

“If we’re going to be 28 percent poorer, what are we going to gain?” asked one resident, using a ballpark estimate for what an increase would be. “How does it benefit us in terms of making this a better place?”

Benson and Dillon Mayor Barbara Davis said benefits would include better police protection, better representation for local citizens in county government and a simplification of the government structure in general.

Keystone residents currently fall under the jurisdiction of the county and various special districts.

“The fact is that we can give a lot to Keystone,” Davis said. “The fact that they (would) have a role and representation in local matters is a very important piece to me.”

However, not everyone was convinced.

“I think the bottom line is, “Do the citizens of Keystone have enough dissatisfaction with the services and amenities that we want to pay more taxes?'” the same resident responded. “I think the answer is no.”

Others concurred.

“I don’t think they made their case,” Keystone resident Craig Suwinski said. “I’ve lived there almost six years, and I don’t notice a deficiency in services. I think the services are pretty good.”

Despite many general concerns, the majority of those in attendance seemed interested in pursuing the proposal with a more in-depth study.

“If I were to describe (the response the town received), I would say that they’re cautiously optimistic that it might work,” Davis said. “We’ve got some demonstrated interest to explore it further.”

To that end, Follett said he would organize a committee of residents to research the idea.

“Some people spoke out rather vigorously against the proposal,” he said. “I want to give them an opportunity to be a part of the discussion. Their voices should also be heard.”

Still, he said, “I personally think it’s too early to be so strongly negative. I think we need to go at this with an open mind.”

After its discussions, the committee will meet with officials from the resort, which already has its own group working on the issue, and then approach the town of Dillon, Follett said.

“I think it’s important to understand that any deal is a three-part deal,” he said. “It involved the citizens S, the resort and the town of Dillon.”

Benson agreed.

“All of the different people that live in this basin have differences on how this should run,” he said. “But frankly, if it’s going to work, you all have to be holding hands. And in this particular case we’re all holding hands from one end of the basin to the other.”

Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or aleonard@summitdaily.com.


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