FCAG talked optional tax issues Thursday; Commissioners to hold Town Hall meetings, Shoshoni restructuring police department, and there’s more…

By Ernie Over, managing editor, county10.com

(Shoshoni, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Association of Governments (FCAG)  meeting Thursday centered around elections. More specifically, the optional one cent sales tax issue for infrastructure improvements and the scheduling of a candidates forum to quiz county and state office seekers about their stands on municipal and county government issues. FCAG is comprised of the mayors of Pavillion, Shoshoni, Dubois, Lander and Riverton and a representative from the Fremont County Commissioners. The group works collectively on issues of common concern.

Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness has been the lead on the optional one cent sales tax issue and he reported that a political action committee formed to support the measure has now ordered campaign signs and that a PowerPoint presentation has been produced explaining what the tax issue is all about. The municipal and county governments are limited to providing “educational information” only on such a ballot information, so promotion of the tax issue is in hands of the PAC. The campaign has been branded “FOR” which represents For Our Roads. The optional one cent tax issue, if approved by voters in November, would provide funds for road and street and water and sewer projects in Fremont County and in the county’s municipalities. The county’s present sale tax rate is four cents on the dollar, the lowest in the state. If approved, the sale tax would increase by one cent to five cents on the dollar.

County Commissioner Travis Becker noted that Fremont  County has over 900 miles of roadways that it is responsible for maintaining and that many of the county’s roads are in need of repairs and/or rebuilding.

Members of the Fremont County Association of Governments met Thursday evening at the Shoshoni Senior Citizens Center. (Ernie Over photo)

Riverton Civil Engineer Jim Gores said  “a steep decline curve in the integrity of asphalt” exists when roadways begin to deteriorate, “and if we don’t do anything, there will be one huge bill coming.” He also noted that there is no present way to address deteriorating roadways with current austerity measures in place. “We’re digging ourselves a hole that is not easily resolved,” he said, and that is why he said he was supporting the infrastructure improvement measure. Gores noted that reconstruction of paved roadways costs around $1-million per mile, and he said the replace a city street the cost nearly doubles.

“I have about one mile of streets in my town,” said FCAG Chairman and Pavillion Mayor Gary Hamlin. “And the price of construction won’t be any less in the future. A 50 percent match for a State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) Grant for a street project is beyond our means,” he said.

Warpness noted that several presentations to community groups about the issue have been made and are being scheduled, “to get the word out.”

Scott Peters, Mayor of Shoshoni, said he’s heard support for the measure in his town. “When you don’t have paved streets, it’s easy to see the benefit we’d receive,” he said.

Sitting in for Lander Mayor Mick Wolfe, Gary Michaud, the Lander’s Community Resource Coordinator, said Lander residents had received facts about the tax measure through their water bills and he said the LEADER Corp. was given a presentation about the measure the prior morning at their monthly meeting.

The meeting with the candidates was set for October 4th.

In a roundtable at the meeting, each community representative talked about current issues in their respective areas.

Leading off this session was Commissioner Becker, who said the Commissioners have scheduled a series of Town Hall type meetings around the county, beginning October 11th in Riverton where he said he expected the tax issue and other county issues to be brought up. “The meetings were scheduled to hear what county residents are thinking about, so we can get the public’s input,” he said. After Riverton, the  sessions are planned in successive months in Dubois, Pavillion, Shoshoni and Lander.

Becker also said the County is working with FCAG’s grant writers to put together an emergency SLIB request for $36,000 that would cover the expense of circling the Riverton County annex with steel shipping containers. Three of the large containers were put in place to protect the Circuit Court offices and courtroom earlier this summer after a bullet was shot through the thin walls of the building into the courtroom. But that left the remainder of the building unprotected from such an attack. The annex also houses the Fremont County and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the Riverton area Sheriff’s Department station. “This is only temporary until we can find a longer term solution,” Becker said. “We would rent the storage containers for two years.”

Shoshoni’s Peters said he was working with the Wyoming Department of Homeland Security to reverse a decision made by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, that somehow listed Shoshoni as being totally located in a flood plain. “I never would’ve thought Homeland Security would be an agency to help us, but when they heard about they offered their help to reverse the decision.” Peters also said the town was continuing “to fight an uphill battle with infrastructure. “We had 20 years of neglect and that’s hard to fix in a short time.” Peters also said the town is restructuring its police department after the departure of its last police chief.

The Shoshoni Mayor also indicated that the town is looking at acquiring some the present school district property, specifically the playground and ball fields for a Town Park, after the schools move to a new location north of the city, which is now being planned.

Riverton’s Warpness said 121 piers had been sunk 25 feet deep at the site of the city’s new two-million gallon water tank on Griffey Hill. The tank will sit on top of the piers so as not be be impacted by frost heaves or ground movement. Warpness also reported a new lease with the Riverton Shooting Club had been approved and he said he has not heard any new information on the start for the Wind River Job Corps Center. “I’m thinking this is being kicked down the road until the election,” he said.

Warpness said he had attended the Open House at the new Riverton Recycling Center operated by Community Entry Services. “They are thinking of installing a conveyor system inside the new building to help with the sorting of plastic bottles and such, that will be their next project,” he said. Warpness said the new facility is giving more of CES’s clients an opportunity to work as the volume of recycling increases.”

Lander’s Michaud said the city is hosting the annual One Shot Antelope Hunt this weekend, but due to a fire that destroyed the Lander Community Center, the event is being held in a huge tent adjacent to Lander City Park. “The event will look a little different for the next two years, but we’re adapting,” he said. Michaud also said the city is in negotiations with the developers of a 40-unit low income housing project just south of the city along Highway 287 for sidewalk installation. “It’s not acceptable to have kids walking along the highway into town,” he said. Michaud also said a new city master plan was just adopted, following nearly two years of public meetings and community input. He also said the city is progressing with the process to relocate the Lander Rodeo Grounds, necessitated by the expansion of Lander’s Hunt Field Airport.

Pavillion’s Hamlin said he was happy to report that the town’s sewer lagoon project has now been completed. He said the next project the town is working on is a water system improvement project, including construction of a fill station. “There are now 20 rural residents east of Pavillion who have signed up for cistern systems being offered by the Wyoming Water Development Commission, and the WWDC is now working with us on this improvement project,” Hamlin said. “The fill station will enable us to provide water for those folks using the cisterns,” he said.

Hamlin also said the first kill by the mountain lion that has been visiting the town over the past month or so was found this past week. “It was a deer in a pasture just east of the town,” he said. “And now that the hunting season is open… ”  Hamlin said several trackers in town with hunting licenses are now looking for the lion.