Commission hears concerns over proposed vehicle repair policy

Lander Community Resource Coordinator Gary Michaud, right, gave a brief presentation to the Fremont County Commission about the community center rebuilding. (Joshua Scheer photo)

Lander Community Resource Coordinator Gary Michaud, right, gave a brief presentation to the Fremont County Commission about the community center rebuilding project. (Joshua Scheer photo)

By Joshua Scheer, reporter,

(Lander, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Commission has delayed a discussion regarding what budgets that repair costs should come from following vehicle wrecks. An early version of the policy was approved in early December, requiring the department operating the vehicle at the time of the crash to take responsibility for the repair costs.

A more extensive version of the policy has been proposed, detailing various reporting requirements. It clarifies that it is only for crashes where the county driver was determined to be liable, requires three bids for repairs, requires all crash-related information to be made available to the department heads, and stipulates that all information will be presented to the commission for review.

“Department Heads and Elected Officials will be responsible for any deductibles or amounts not covered by insurance,” the proposed policy states. “Pool car crashes or accidents will become the responsibility of the Department utilizing the vehicle at the time of the crash or accident occurred so long as it is determined that the crash or accident is Fremont County Government’s liability.”

Several county employees were gathered at the discussion of the policy on Tuesday.

The policy does not determine a cost threshold as to when these measures should be followed. Vehicle Maintenance Supervisor Glen Steers said there could be negligence involved when a repair only costs $15. He said he would continue to work with departments with repairs. If damage is only cosmetic and would not negatively effect resale value, he said he was ok with not requiring repairs to be done if the department head preferred it that way.

Prior to last year’s policy change, all repairs came out of vehicle maintenance’s budget. Chairman Doug Thompson has said the original intention of the policy is to force some responsibility and encourage safety training among the departments.

Transportation Office Manager Penny Buffington said the purpose of the revisions was to allow for issues between the departments and vehicle maintenance to be worked out before it come to the commission. Several people said those discussion are already occurring as needed.

Sheriff Skip Hornecker was concerned about what would happen if one of his deputies had to force a wreck in a chase or some sort of event. Commissioner Keja Whiteman said property insurance would kick in.

Fremont County Library System Facility Manager Tom Nolwood said the libraries have seen only two wrecks, one with county liability, in 18 years. However, with this change he said he would feel a need to budget $5,000 to $10,000 for repairs and insurance deductibles just in case.

“I would have to request probably $10,000 in that line item just to sit there,” he said, adding that there is no room in his budget to pull that from right now.

Hornecker also said that the entire repair cost would have to come out of the department’s budget, for reimbursement later. And to be able to use the revenue from insurance would require a public hearing.

“Everyone does not need to go out and put $10,000 in the budget,” Thompson said, later adding, “If there’s negligence you should have to pay for that. … Right now it’s not fair to dump it all in Glen’s budget.”

Commission Vice Chairman Travis Becker said he felt the new version of the policy seems to be muddying the waters.

Whiteman moved to remove the policy altogether. She believes the unintended consequences of departments padding their budgets is not a good thing. After a little more discussion, the discussion was tabled so that Steers could return at a later date with crash history information.

Other county news:

-The Transportation Department was given the go-ahead to apply for long-term grants for future repairs of Union Pass Road, a bridge on East Fork Road, and Horse Creek Road.

-City of Lander Community Resource Coordinator Gary Michaud gave the commission an update on the rebuilding of the community center lost to fire last summer. He notified the commission that would be applying for $1 million through the Capital Improvement and Maintenance Program: Long-term program. The commission approved the reallocation of State Loan and Investment Funds from Jefferson Street repairs to the community center. The reallocation requires other approvals before it is official.

-Lois Herbst, Charles Landon and Jim Smail were interviewed for the Fremont County Historic Preservation Committee.

-Library System Director Matt Nojonen was given approval to allow the library board to either hire one full-time librarian in Dubois or two 24-hour-per-week employees as long as either option is within the budget. Becker voted against the approval.