Commission sends message to museums board; Ambulance budget not yet finalized

(Lander, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Commission, during its budget discussions on Tuesday, didn’t come to a determination on what to do with the Ambulance budget and decided to send a message to the Museums Board.

The commission approved by consensus to send the Museums Board a letter asking it to not hire a new director for the Pioneer Museum in Lander until it has effectively ruled out a single director system for the whole county.

A new management structure for the county museums has been proposed, and the commission told the board in the last couple weeks that they wanted to the idea further explored. The proposed system would have a single director to run the Dubois, Riverton and Lander museums who would oversee site managers/curators at each location.

Commissioner Keja Whiteman said she was concerned the board told her during its recent budget hearing that its priority was to accession artifacts. Accessioning is the process of detail inventorying for museums. Whiteman said the museums board should also be focusing on the local communities, public education and historic preservation.

“I would hate to think the whole purpose is just collecting,” she said.

Commission Chairman Doug Thompson said at one point in the past, inventory for the museums was a problem and the commission made it “their number one chore.”

“If we want to shift work order for them, we should probably make it clear,” he said.

Whiteman said it would help if the board had someone who could focus on management, budget issues and personnel.

Commissioner Stephanie Kessler, the liaison to the museums board, said the board has agreed to talk about the restructuring idea at a later date. The date has not yet been set. She said the board was taking it at “face-value” to simply look into the idea. Kessler noted that the board has begun reviewing candidates for the new Pioneer Museum director.

Commissioner Larry Allen suggested adjusting the board’s budget to allow for just one director and “force their hand.”

Thompson said he was not in favor of that idea because he asked the board to look into what’s best for the museums. “I don’t know if I can say what’s best,” he said, adding that he did like the idea of the single director proposal.

Kessler and Clerk Julie Freese said it appeared the Riverton Museum Director would be retiring around the turn of the year. The commission opted to ask the board not to hire a Lander director until options were fully explored. This way a new hire might not have to be let go quickly.

The commission also is expected to ask the board to not hold onto self-generated revenues, but use them for the museums. Thompson said those funds should be used for “enhancing the museum experience.” “Tell them not to sit on it,” he said.

Ambulance budget:

With the Fremont County Ambulance budget proposing a $1.2 million increase in expenditures, which would result in the department’s reserves nearly used up, the commission has yet to decide how to address it. The $3.3 million budget is down from an earlier requested $4 million.

Thompson’s main concern was the sustainability of the budget. While the department can absorb the cost internally for Fiscal Year 2014, he said the three options for moving forward in future years would be for the department to live within its revenues, have a general fund supplement or increase its rates for service.

In past meetings, Ambulance Director Lauri Wempen has also suggested looking into special EMS taxing districts or asking the municipalities for buy-in. Neither option was brought up by the commission during Tuesday’s discussion.

Whiteman said she appreciates the work that went into reducing the budget, but she feels some of the core issues haven’t been addressed. She wants to see the department work to bring in more volunteers and try to avoid moving up to 25 part-time EMTs to full time, as proposed.

Freese said she doesn’t think Wempen expects to spend everything that’s budgeted. “I don’t think she’s going to spend all of her money,” she said. “I just don’t see how that can happen. I think it’s a year-long project.”

The commission is expected to meet with Wempen on her budget further during its June 25 meeting.