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Crews work on the back end of the engine bays at the new Casper Fire Station No. 2 in early April in Casper. The new station, on South Coffman Street near Wyoming Boulevard, is being constructed in part with money from the optional 1-cent sales tax funds.

The Natrona County 1-Cent Committee has raised $2,500 in the early going of its fundraising campaign to get out the vote for the optional 1-cent sales tax, according to committee treasurer Lacy Crowder.

That money has come from members of the committee and one engineering firm, Crowder said. Letters requesting donations were sent to area businesses early last week.

“We’ve been underway for a couple months,” Crowder said. “We’re comprised of a handful of volunteers. We’re looking at bringing in more volunteers, and we’ve enlisted the help of AdBay, but it’s all at the volunteer level right now.”

Crowder said campaign planning kicked into gear late while members awaited the fate of the $33 million bond for school improvements. Voters defeated the measure 52 percent to 48 percent.

“We kind of wanted to see how things played out with the school bond issue before we got too out there, so we’re behind what was done (in 2010),” Crowder said. “I remain really optimistic the 1-cent is going to pass. We don’t foresee the school bond hurting the 1-cent because the 1-cent reaches so many community members in so many facets. It’s almost impossible to find a way it doesn’t directly affect somebody.”

The penny tax is voted on every four years and comes before the electorate Nov. 4 this year.

Natrona County keeps just 1.2 cents of the state-mandated 4 percent sales tax, but the fifth penny, first authorized in 1975, stays in the county.

About half of the $15 million a year paid into city coffers since the tax was reauthorized in 2010 has gone toward water, sewer and street projects.

Former chamber director Lori Becker said her committee started talking to businesses and community leaders two years ahead of the vote. They used telephone surveys and town hall meetings to gauge support and understand the misconceptions people had about the tax.

The survey clickers used by city officials during their education campaign this spring was initiated by then-City Manager Tom Forslund in 2010 to offer instant feedback on community priorities for the money.

“When we started out, there was definitely an anti-tax sentiment. People were frustrated with the federal government. There were changes with health care reform and a lot of unknowns,” Becker said. “This tax isn’t going to benefit the federal government. It’s going to benefit this community directly: our seniors, our kids, our entertainment, our fitness, our culture.”

According to earlier Star-Tribune articles, that committee had raised $70,000 at this point in the year. It eventually brought in $97,000, about $74,500 of that from the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance.

The money covered the cost of mailings to over 20,000 homes, in addition to radio, television, movie theater and newspaper ads.

The Economic Development Alliance is once again partnering with the Chamber of Commerce, according to City Manager John Patterson.

“With the change of executive director, there was a void there, and they didn’t step forward,” Patterson said. “Now Gilda (Lara) is here, and she’s hitting the ground running, so the chamber has stepped back into their role and said they want to participate in this. The folks at CAEDA and the folks at the chamber are working together.”

The 1-cent committee hopes to raise a similar amount of money and use the same traditional advertising, word of mouth and social media techniques that proved successful in 2010, when a record 70 percent of county voters supported the tax — a 16-point jump from 2006.

“The goal is $120,000 to do the campaign as anticipated with AdBay,” Crowder said. “If we don’t reach that, we will have to reinvent the wheel a little bit.”

The Casper City Council will present and consider individual projects for 1-cent money at its July 22 meeting at City Hall.

James Goossen